Peter, Paul, And Scary

As part of our ongoing series “The Fine Art Of Belly-Aching” we’re encouraging the people of Good Shepherd Church to begin their days in the Word and not in the world. I am devoting this space to reading prompts so that we can resource the same people we encourage.

This week’s readings reinforce last Sunday’s bottom line: YOU MAY BE POWERLESS TO PREVENT BUT YOU ARE EMPOWERED TO PREVAIL.

As a result, we will look at a number of different sections from the letters of both Paul and Peter in which these inspired authors talk about God’s redemptive actions in the middle of human difficulties.

Today: 2 Peter 3:1-18

I love this chapter for many reasons: 1) it addresses the “Fast God / Slow God” idea I mentioned on Sunday; 2) it clarifies biblical teaching on the end times; and 3) it has PETER talking about PAUL in a way that is both ancient and current.

Unlike the letters of Paul, the two New Testament letters of Peter are GENERAL – they are not intended for specific churches or individuals but have in mind a much more general readership. As Peter comes to the conclusion of his second letter, it’s clear that the audience he has in mind is both discouraged and deceived. Discouraged that Jesus hasn’t returned yet to right every wrong and heal every hurt and, in light of that delay, deceived by false teachers who “scoff” at the word (1:3) rather than lifting it.

How does Peter comfort those who are impatient? By retweeting Psalm 90:4 in 3:8: “With Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.” A ha! God’s sense of timing is nothing at like ours. Peter moves on from there to explain the reason for God’s delay in Jesus’ return: “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (3:9) If you have people for whom you have been praying that they would embrace a living relationship with Jesus Christ, THAT is comfort.

Peter next draws a vivid picture of what WILL happen when Jesus returns (3:10-13). With language that sounds something like an ancient description of a nuclear holocaust, Peter makes clear that Jesus’ return will be sudden, dramatic, and explosive. These words are the source of Good Shepherd’s END TIMES CHART that I have attached.

In the last part of the chapter, Peter acknowledges that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand.” Ya think?! Yet Peter also speaks of an ancient problem with many, many modern applications: false teachers take Paul’s words and twist them to their own desires. In recent weeks, I have heard Paul’s correspondence described as “optional,” “bigoted,” and “archaic” by people in our larger Methodist family who should know better.

Nope. I’ll stick with Peter’s own advice regarding Paul’s correspondence: “be on your guard so you are not carried away by the error of the lawless … grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Amen.