Truth for the Times - Introduction
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
We live in days when the contents of the Christian faith are widely questioned, and new and speculative theologies are being propagated. With this a new morality is advocated by men who are undermining the faith, and their teaching leads to a breakdown in proper conduct. The problems and dangers faced in early days are very like our own, and the Spirit of God in these Epistles provides us with an impregnable defence when we are endangered from within.
The antidote is to be equipped with a full knowledge of the truth. The canonicity of 2 Peter is disputed by some, doubted by others, but joyfully accepted by every true Christian. There are only two alternatives, forgery or genuineness. Either it is the work of the apostle, or else his name is used to give a show of authority. Note the people to whom he writes, 3. 1.
Peter and Jude have a great deal in common and attack the false teaching prevalent in their day. There are many extraordinary resemblances and divergencies between 2 Peter 2 and Jude which will convince any open-minded reader that neither writer copied the other. Peter is prophesying and writes in the future tense generally, Jude declares the prophecies to be fulfilled, so he writes in the present tense. Compare 2 Pet. 2. 3, 12, 14, 15, 18 and Jude 16; 2 Pet. 2. 10, 11 and Jude 8; 2 Pet. 2. 2, 10, 18and Jude 19.
Writers. Peter is a slave of Jesus, and an apostle of Christ. He is now an old man, 1. 13, 14; he has happy memories of companionship with his Lord, 1. 14, 16-18. He held Paul in high esteem, and pays tribute to his writings, 3. 15, 16. Jude was the brother of James the just, a member of the household of Mary the mother of Jesus, Matt. 13. 55; Mark 6. 3. He was not an apostle, Jude 17, and distinguishes himself from the apostles by reference to a God-raised authority higher than his own when introducing his message of warning and exhortation in verse 17. His is the only book in the Bible entirely devoted to the great apostasy which is to come upon Christendom before the Lord Jesus returns. Two distinct classes are before him, the faithful who are preserved for presentation, v. 24, and the faithless who are reserved for retribution, vv. 6,15.
Purpose. Both Peter and Jude warn of dangers. Peter provides strength against internal evil, corruption and seduction 1. 4; 2. 12-19. The darkness is met by the lamp of truth, 1. 19. His readers are in peril of being deceived by the propaganda of false teachers.
Jude writes to guard saints against false teaching that issued in corrupt living. Apostasy is defined as corrupt; it is crafty, and is condemned by God. Apostasy and its doom are illustrated from the past by reminding them of Israel in the wilderness, the angels that kept not their first estate, and Sodom and Gomorrah.
These Epistles emphasize that the modernism, scepticism, and materialism of the present day are the products of an impoverished soil, the remedy lying in rivers of spiritual vigour and vitality. These resources are at our disposal, so let us pray for a revival of Biblical, Holy-Spirit prayer and practice. Nothing less can keep us right and clean in this world. We have an unfailing lamp to light the way, and a God able to keep us from stumbling. We must show sincerity in all things, be steadfast in the faith, in view of the sure and certain hope of our Lord's return.
Date. Both Epistles are difficult to date; possibly between 67-68 ad. Peter was aged, and expecting death. His reference to many of Paul's writings as already existing, implies it was written at a late date, just before his death. This Epistle corresponds with Paul's second letter to Timothy, both being written in the shadow of martyrdom.
Peter and Jude had a balanced ministry, including both instruction and warning, 2 Pet. 3. 17-18; Jude 3, 4.
Message. 2 Peter: Progress in the Christian life: (a) By active co-operation, 1. 5-8; (b) By accepting the truth, 1. 19-21; (c) By acceptable living. 3. 11. Perversion of divine truth: (a) By denial of the Person of Christ, 2. 1; (b) By denial of the promise of Christ, 3. 9. Key word: "knowledge".
Jude. Power that keeps, v. 1; Love that perfects, v. 24. The Lord is our Preserver, v. 1, and will be the Prevailer, v. 14-15. Our God is the Protector, Purifier, and Perfecter of His saints, v. 24, 25. Keynote: "Keep yourselves".
Suggested Analysis of Second Peter.
Chapter One. Knowledge Expressed in Production, Wheat. Introduction, 1-2. Saints united in faith, v. 1; Sure of unlimited supplies, v. 2.
1. The Abundant Provision of God, 3-4. Divine power exercised, v. 3; Divine
promises given, v. 4; Divine prospect mentioned, v. 3; Divine protection assured, v. 4.
2. The Actual Progress of the Saint, 5-11. The starting point - faith, v. 5; the splendid qualities — seven features, vv. 5-7; the simple principle — abound, v. 8a; the satisfying portion — fruitful, v. 8b; the sad possibility — blind, v. 9; the strenuous effort— make sure, v. 10; the sure reward — entrance, v. 11. The Accurate Prophetic Word, 12-21. Remembering the truth — to establish, vv. 12, 13; recording the word — to encourage, vv. 14, 15; re-affirming the truth—to enrich, w. 19-21.
Chapter Two. Knowledge which Ends in Perdition, Tares. The methods and miseries of false teachers, (a) Their satanic doctrine, vv. 1-3. They deny the Lord, v. 1; defame the truth, v. 2; delude the saints, v. 3. (b) Their sure destruction, w. 4-9. It slumbereth not, v. 3; swift in execution, vv. 4-5; some striking examples, vv. 4-6. (c) Their shameful deeds, w. 10-22. Defiled minds, v. 10; despisers of government, v. 10; destitute of the Spirit, v. 12; degrading in living, vv. 13-20; delivered to death, vv. 21,22.
Chapter Three. Knowledge Effects Preparedness, Harvest. The preparation of the faithful soul, (a) Beware of unbelieving men, w. 1-7. They scorn purity of life, vv. 1, 2; scoff at the promise of Christ, vv. 3, 4; shut their eyes to judgment, vv. 5-7. (b) The believers unswerving faithfulness, w. 8-18. By dependence upon truth, vv. 8, 9; in view of that day, vv. 10, 11; by devout living, v. 12; by diligent demeanour, v. 14; by discreet study, v. 16; by daily duty, v. 17; doxology of praise — glory forever, v. 18.
Suggested Analysis of Jude.
Salutation, w. 1-3: Our character and calling, v. 1; our conflict and challenge, v. 3. Consternation, vv. 4-13: Dangerous men, deluding messages, devilish methods, v. 4; disobedient angels, v. 6; defiled Sodomites, vv. 7-8; debasing behaviour, v. 9, 10; descriptive characters, v. 11; degrading conduct, w. 12, 13. Retribution, vv. 14-16: Prophecy accepted, v. 14; perversion apparent, vv. 15, 16. Recognition, vv. 17-19: The supreme authority of God, v. 17; shameful apostasy, vv. 18, 19. Exhortation, vv. 20-23: Building, praying, v. 20; keeping, looking, v. 21; have compassion, v. 22; snatching, hating, contending, v. 23. Adoration, vv. 24-25; Power available — He is able; preservation assured — keep from stumbling; prospect alluring — present faultless; pleasure enjoyed and praise and power for ever.