Today we will consider the second letter of the Apostle Peter. He wants the church to make sure we are walking in the truth. This was likely written from Rome shortly before his death. Peter begins by pointing out that the Apostles are no different from all Christians regarding salvation. We have all been saved through faith and by the righteousness of Christ (1:1). He has called all of us to obedience and has empowered us to obey (v. 3). He has promised to sanctify us in the here and now (v. 4), but we must be sure to work towards holiness ourselves (vv. 5-7). If we work towards all of the things he mentions here, we will know Christ more and be fruitful for the kingdom (v. 8). If we do not work towards these things, we have forgotten that Christ has saved us (v. 9) and have no assurance of our salvation (vv. 10-11). In other words, how we work out our salvation in this life gives us assurance of our salvation.
Peter says that he knows his readers know these things (v. 12), but he wants to remind them one more time because he knows he is about to die (vv. 13-15). He wants them to remember that they follow the truth, of which Peter was an eyewitness (v. 16). He tells of the Transfiguration (vv. 17-18), which Jesus said not to talk about until His resurrection (see Matt 17:1-9). Both the resurrection and the Transfiguration prove Who Christ is. So does the Word of God, because it is the words of God Himself (vv. 20-21).
Chapter 2 so closely resembles the letter of Jude that one of these almost certainly relies on the other. However, whereas Jude recalls the works of God to point out that He is not just Savior, but also Judge, Peter goes the other way. He encourages his readers by pointing out that the Judge of the ungodly (the fallen angels, the world at the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah) also provided salvation (Noah, Lot). This points us to the final judgment and our final salvation (vv. 6, 9-10).
In verses 20-22, some say Peter is teaching the loss of salvation. Based on what he said in 1:10-11, I think it is clear that Peter is talking about those who were never truly saved. These are the false teachers that have snuck into the church. Since they are unsaved, they cannot help but return to worldly ways, like a dog to its own vomit or a pig to the mud. Calling someone a dog or a pig in ancient Israel was about as bad an insult as you can hurl. Peter here describes false teachers in the church as the scum of the earth. He also implies that the judgment for such people will be greater than those who never take part in the community of the church.
In chapter 3, Peter turns his focus to the Second Coming of Christ. He wants the church to remember the promise of the Scriptures (v. 2). There will be false teachers in these last days (v. 3) who say that Christ’s coming is delayed, or that He might not really be coming back at all (v. 4). They forget that the world that was once destroyed by the Flood (v. 6) will be destroyed by fire, and the wicked along with it (v. 7). We cannot count days and impose on God some kind of human timeframe. God lives outside of time and is not limited by it like we are (v. 8). The promise is sure. Peter points out that God is graciously waiting to come until the full number of the elect are saved (v. 9, 15). Many take this out of its context and say that God wills that all men would be saved. Peter is not saying that. If God willed that, then it would be so. Peter says that God is “patient toward you” in verse 9. Who is the “you?” It’s believers. God is patient toward the elect not wishing that any should perish but reach repentance. And they will. And then Christ will come (v. 10).
Peter then asks: if everything in this world is going to be destroyed and we will be saved, how should that affect our lives now (v. 11)? We should seek to live lives of holiness. This is how we hasten the day of the Lord (v. 12). Our lives of holiness will lead others to repentance, saving the elect. Then this world will be destroyed, and we will enter our eternal home with Christ (v. 13). Since that is our hope – that is what we are waiting for! – then we should live lives of holiness (v. 14), and count God’s patience as salvation (v. 15 – see vv. 8-10).
Peter then commends to his readers Paul’s writings. In verse 16, Peter says two things. First, Paul’s letters contain some things that are difficult to understand. Those who don’t understand them teach false doctrine, so we must therefore seek to understand so we may live in the truth (vv. 17-18). Second, Paul’s letters are Scripture. This is quite a statement! Peter is saying that God has added to His Word – to the Old Testament! Peter is saying that God’s revelation continued through the Apostles (see also 1:16-21).