2 Peter, Flesh vs. Spirit, Especially in 21st Century
“If ye do these things, ye shall never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10 RV).
by Austin Williams
Simon Peter, a bond-slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, speaks of those whom God is calling. Jesus invites those who are weak, weary, and heavy laden with sin to come unto him for comfort, Jesus providing everything needed for life and godliness. By mentioning divine power, Peter means that God wants believers to change from their former condition, prior to conversion, by developing character. Thus Faith unites weak believers to Christ, as much as it does strong ones, and purifies the heart of each. Every sincere believer is by his faith justified in the sight of God. Therefore, Peter emphasizes the virtue of Faith. It should motivate us to work in all godliness, to work what no other grace in our sentient being can do. Thus, Faith is the essence of God’s work in declaring us righteous before Him.
Let us inquire whether we are really renewed in the spirit of our minds when we exercise faith in God’s power, His person, His promises, which should make us partakers of the divine nature. “Exceeding great and precious promises” are given to us by divine power that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” This hope of partaking of the divine nature will never again be offered.
The Apostle Peter sees the Christian life as an intense effort on our part, to make one’s calling and election sure. He lists a sequential development of character traits, progressing to maturity. “Giving all diligence” is an important phrase. It applies to all the following seven traits to be added to our faith, namely virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.1
Virtue means fortitude, strength of character, which is yet a step beyond faith in Christ. From the simple rudiments of faith and the milk of the Word, one now gets stronger food, and the body grows proportionately stronger. Then we add knowledge to virtue, increasing acquaintance with the truth and will of God. We must add temperance to knowledge; self-control in earthly things. To temperance, add patience, or cheerful submission to the will of God. Tribulation works patience, by which we bear calamities and crosses with silence and submission. To patience we add godliness, the reverence and devotion found in a true worshipper of God; with tender affection toward all brethren, who are children of the same Father, servants of the same Master, members of the same family, travelers to the same country, and heirs of the same inheritance. The Greek word for brotherly kindness is Philadelphia. Some translations use “love of the brotherhood;” we love those who fervently love God. Jesus favored Peter, James, and John because of their zeal for God. Beyond love for the brotherhood, what is the highest type of love? It is agape (KJV, charity). We love those who love God. We have an affinity for them because of our common bond. But our love must go beyond that, to love for mankind, our enemies, and also the brute creation.
As we examine ourselves in these seven areas, do we feel comfortable with the present condition in our spiritual walk with God?
The words “these things” are repeated five times in verses 8-15. “If ye do these things, ye shall never stumble.” Some people do acts of kindness, are patient, etc., but inconsistently. With knowledge, some are satisfied with a certain level and stop there. These qualities must be diligently practiced, with consistency, if we would be more than overcomers.
He who lacks these qualities is so shortsighted that he is blind, having forgotten his purification from former sins. It is not enough to just believe Jesus is the Savior and to be willing to suffer for him. The object of our being purged from old sins is to grow in character.
The Revised Standard Version in verse 12 states, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” Peter directs us toward basic truth, not dispensational truth, by instilling in us to always encourage and exhort one another.
He called his body a tabernacle, a temporary tent, due to the shortness of life here. He was ready to put off this tabernacle. Similarly, our body is like a tent that we lay aside at the hour of our death. Death should hold no fears for the believer, because in the next conscious moment he is present with the Lord.
Peter was of the Gospel Age’s first generation. Nearing the end of his earthly ministry, his convictions were sound. What it meant to him was: My message is not fabricated, it is real. We did not imagine these things. When we were in the mount with Jesus, we glimpsed in vision his future glory, that we will inherit. We saw him not just as the man Christ Jesus but as he would be in the Kingdom. Seeing his glory gives us hope that we will experience the same transformation, if we are faithful.
This scene left a lasting impression. And they heard the Father’s awesome voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 16:28-17:9).
We are challenged to attend to the prophetic word, because the Word of God is more important than any vision or audible voice. Peter realized he had seen a prophetic vision. Therefore, when Peter says that we have “a more sure word of prophecy,” he means that the Bible is “more sure,” confirmed, and primary in importance than any vision.
We are invited to study the Scriptures to show ourselves approved. We should not accept a teaching just because a particular person uttered it. Only what can be proven by the Word of God should be accepted. We are cautioned that there are true prophets and false prophets. Both claim to speak with authority according to a “thus saith the Lord.”
How do we differentiate between true and false? Compare Scripture with Scripture, and select elders and teachers wisely. Ensure not only that they are in harmony with the Scriptures but that they live them and have the ability to expound them in a way so as not to monopolize an entire Bible study.
True or False?
Apostle Peter gives us some guidelines to detect false teachers and doctrines of perdition. Immorality and greed are the downfall of many. Whoever promises joys in moral liberty is already enslaved to immorality. Although “such were some of you,” no fornicators, adulterers nor homosexuals “shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:8-11). Some false teachers may even deny the blood of Jesus.
If a person always brings forth thistles and thorns — if nearly everything is destructive and nothing is constructive — then we should be wary. If one is always critical and never has anything good to say, we should disassociate ourselves from that person, or even from an ecclesia of such persons. The general thinking, the general conduct, is the best we can go by.
When one has been enlightened with the truth and then goes into darkness, the Scriptures say, “How great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). When one falls away, he commonly goes farther and farther downstream, first with one practice or doctrine, then with another and another and another, until there is total darkness regarding present truth. Yet he may still profess to love the Lord.
Mention of the angels who sinned before the Flood, Sodom, and Balaam points to modern temptations of impetuousness, homosexuality and other lusts, and greed (2 Peter 2:4-6). To profess Christianity conveys no automatic immunity; we must purge ourselves. The falling away will often be along the lines of the lust of the flesh, which is characteristic of our day.
We must also hold suspect all claimed supernatural signs and wonders. Do not delve into occult “sciences.” The Judgment to come upon deceivers is like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even though Lot was troubled by the sin of Sodom, he needed to be pulled out. Little Flock members will be quick to see and obey, whereas others have to be prodded to action.
We cannot fight the battle alone against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The fight would be impossible without the help of the holy Spirit, and Jesus, our Advocate. Even the most righteous may fall short, so we cannot fight the battle without God’s help.
How can we overcome these testings today? Can we apply this despising of authority to the present time when respect for the messengers is being questioned? Not only is the role of the seventh messenger questioned, but even the whole idea that Jesus has sent specific dispensational messengers to his people. By actions, such ungodly ones despise the Lord and speak evil of dignities, or glorious ones. We must fully develop until we hate iniquity and love righteousness. Pride and lack of humility causes one to speak evil of glorious ones.
However, even the statements of a messenger must be tested and proven with God’s Word. The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures daily to see whether his words were correct (Acts 17:11). The Bible is our measuring rod. The apostle conveys a stern warning that false teachers would “bring upon themselves swift destruction.” He says, How foolish to be governed by basic instinct and not by the Lord’s Word! They are “made to be taken and destroyed”; they “shall utterly perish in their own corruption.”
Lesson for the End of the Age
The final chapter prophesies the end times. Now we see the prediction of evil being fulfilled. Perilous times arise even in the true Church. Ungodly and immoral conditions will encroach upon and come right into the ecclesia. Immorality starts gradually and continues to develop. It is better not to have known, than to have known and turned away from, the way of righteousness. Unclean conversation during fellowship causes damage. Babes in Christ might assume such talk is acceptable. Our words should be wholesome and pure.
The Apostle Peter reminds us to stir up our purified minds to more activity in works of holiness. He reminds us of the word of the prophets and the commandments of Jesus through the Apostles. He warns us to be aware that at the end of the age scoffers will scoff at the object of our Lords return, or presence, to follow after their own desires. These confrontations come not only from the outside but also from within the true church at the end of the age. The Apostle’s analogy is of the people and conditions before the Flood in Noah’s day, when Noah spoke about a coming deluge and prepared a huge boat on dry land. The people mocked Noah for a rain they could not foresee. Luke 17:26, “in the days of Noah,” signifies Noah being present; so also “in the days of the son of man” signifies our Lord being present. They were willingly ignorant during Noah’s day. Similarly at the end of this age scoffers will question, Where is the promise of his coming [presence]? All things continue as they were from the beginning. Scoffers are willingly ignorant during the days of our Lord’s presence.
Literally, “the day of the Lord will have come as a thief” (2 Peter 3:10 RVIC). Jesus said, Let the wheat and the tares “grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). But once Christ is present (before coming in glory), the spirit-begotten are called to come out of Babylon — all sectarianism — so as not to partake of its sins. Once that time is come, we must put belief into action.
“The earth and the works that are therein shall be exposed” is read by most of the oldest and best manuscripts of 2 Peter 3:10. We observe that many corporations, financiers, politicians, and even religious leaders are now being exposed, to their shame. Let each of us ask ourselves, How can I lead my life so that I will not be ashamed to have my works exposed?
Peter asks us, “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness Seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11, 14 RV)