Tonight as we come to our study of the Word of God for the time that we have, I want you to turn to 2 Peter chapter 1. We're going to look at verses 12 through 15. This is one of those passages that really gives us insight into the author's heart. It's kind of going behind the scenes, a little bit, in the life of Peter to find out what makes him tick, as it were.
Let me read you this marvelous text of insight into his life. Second Peter 1:12, "Therefore I shall always be ready to remind you of these things even though you already know them and have been established in the truth which is present with you. And I consider it right as long as I am in this earthly dwelling to stir you up by way of remembrance, or reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind."
Now let me give you a context in which to set this passage. As we have been saying throughout our study of 2 Peter, Peter lays stress on knowledge as the safeguard against false teachers and their destructive heretical lies. Really the heart of this letter is the second chapter in which he discusses and describes the false teachers. But he surrounds that in chapter 1 and in chapter 3 with a discussion of the importance of knowledge. If we are to defend ourselves against false doctrine, heresy, we are going to have to have knowledge. It's reminiscent of the words of Hosea who said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." If we are successfully to survive the onslaught of demon doctrine brought by demonic, seducing spirits through hypocritical lying false teachers, we must have knowledge. We must know what we believe. We must know our spiritual condition.
In fact, in this beautiful epistle, this wonderful letter, there are three primary things we need to know. We need to know our salvation and we've already discussed that in the first eleven verses of chapter 1. We need to know the Scripture, and he's going to get into that starting in verse 16 in our next lesson. And finally, in chapter 3, we must know our sanctification. To know our salvation, to know our Scripture and to know our sanctification is to insulate us against the onslaught of false teachers and their false doctrine.
Now we have already covered this initial discussion of the knowledge of salvation. You remember in verses 1 to 12 the theme is to know you're saved. And now Peter begins to turn toward knowing the Scripture. And in verses 16 through 21 is one of the most significant and important passages in the entire New Testament for it speaks about the inspiration about Scripture.
But before Peter goes into that second area of knowledge, he digresses a little bit in these few verses to let us look into his heart. He shows us the tenderest part of him in this whole letter and really reveals his pastoral passion. Here is why he wrote the letter. Here we get an insight in to what was motivating him.
And as he speaks about his ministry, four things flow out of this text, and you might want to jot these down as we go. They'll kind of be the hooks we hang our thoughts on. He reveals the urgency of ministry, the spirit of ministry, the duty of ministry and the brevity of ministry. Given the urgency of it, given the spirit of it, given the duty of it, given the brevity of it he has written. That's what's underlying this letter. This is the passion that moves him.
To sum it up, this letter is a valedictory message. This letter is a final statement from the beloved Apostle, a legacy, a statement of divine truth which set in pen and ink under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and included in the canon of Scripture will go on bearing eternal fruit as long as time exists. And it will go on even beyond that to bear fruit because it will lead people to holiness, virtue, obedience which will result in eternal reward.
So here we see the affectionate heart of the true shepherd, Peter, telling us why he is saying what he is saying and why he is writing it down. This is his swan song, this is his final moment, this is his legacy, this is his last message.
Now he's like any good teacher and any good teacher has to realize one very important fact and that is this, people forget what you told them. On the several occasions when I have had the privilege of visiting the land of Israel and particularly the city of Jerusalem, I have had the opportunity to visit a very important historical sight. It is not a sight that has any relationship to the Old Testament. It is not a sight that has any relationship to the New Testament. It is a matter of modern history, it is The Museum of the Holocaust in a very strategic location in the city of Jerusalem, that museum exists. It has to be one of the most moving experiences that anyone can have to just pass from room to room and be thrust, as it were, into the inside of a concentration camp by graphic visualization, to see huge pits filled with masses of dead bodies, to see replicated the barbed wire and the fences and the towers, the instruments of torture. It's a very moving, moving experience. And you see the utter indescribable inhumanity of the Nazi system against the Jews, everyone from little children to the elderly.
The images of that museum are still imbedded in my mind. They're very difficult to forget. All of the names of the various concentration camps where Jews were murdered are engraved upon the floor and when one sees the engraving it's somewhat indelible. And by the time you have gone through that museum in somewhat stunned silence and you come out the other side, they put a little pin in your lapel and that little pin has a Hebrew letter that indicates the word "remember...remember."
The school children of the land of Israel go there every year. They are taken through that museum and they watch and they listen to all of the things that went on and they are told "never forget...never forget." And their little shirts and dresses bear the little pin that reminds them to remember.
Jews all over the world remind their children repeatedly of the Holocaust. In fact, they would want to remind the whole world of it all the time. They don't want to forget. They don't want their children to forget. They don't want anybody to forget.
In thinking about that there's a certain sadness there. The sad reality is that they are teaching their children to remember what they might be better off to forget and failing to teach their children what they should remember. Way back in Deuteronomy chapter 6 God said, "I am the Lord and I am one and I am your God." And He said, "Don't forget. Talk about Me when you rise up and when you sit down and when you lie down and when you walk in the way, teach about Me to your children. Bind My law on your forehead between your eyes, on your arm, put it on the doorpost of your house, do not forget." And so I say it is somewhat sad that the Jewish people are so eager to remember what they might be better to forget and seemingly so eager to forget what desperately need to remember, namely the character and the law of their God.
Back in Deuteronomy chapter 7 verse 18 the Scripture says they were told, "You shall well remember what the Lord your God did." In Deuteronomy 8:2 they were told, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord led you." In Deuteronomy 8:18 they were told, "You shall remember the Lord your God" In Deuteronomy 9:7 they were told, "Do not forget." In 1 Chronicles 16:12 they were told, "Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and His judgments from His mouth." In Deuteronomy chapter 8 and verse 19 and 20 we read, "And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish, like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish because you wouldn't listen to the voice of the Lord your God." It's so sad that all they can remember is the perishing and not the God they forgot.
Isaiah said in indicting Israel, "You have forgotten the Lord your maker," Isaiah 51:13. You have forgotten the Lord your maker. In the seventeenth chapter of Isaiah and verse 10 comes a similar reminder by the prophet Isaiah, he says these words to them, "For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge." And then one of the saddest statements in the Psalms, the psalmist in Psalm 88 verse 12 calls Israel the land of forgetfulness. It seems as though Israel has had a great memory for the wrong things and a very poor memory for what is most important.
When God gave the Passover, the Passover was to be an annual reminder, the symbol of remembrance to remember not Egypt but to remember the God of redemption, the God of deliverance, the God of salvation, the God of covenant, the God of grace and mercy, the God of judgment and justice. Even now when Passover is observed, they remember Egypt and they remember escape but they do not know the God of salvation.
Why is it we have such a great memory for things we should forget? Why is it that the flesh wants us to remember what we would rather not remember and the flesh seemingly loses the memory of what we should never forget? Jesus said to the Twelve in John 15:20, "Remember the word which I said unto you." Paul said, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "Acts 20:35. And he said to Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ born of the seed of David, risen from the dead according to my gospel." John records that when Jesus was risen from the dead, His disciples had remembered that He had said He would do that and they believed the Scripture. Jude wrote to his readers, "Remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ." And then he said, "I will put you in remembrance, though you once knew this." Peter said in Acts 11:16, "Then I remembered the Word of the Lord." And he wrote in 2 Peter 3:1, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you in which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." James put it another way but meaning the same thing, said, "Do not be a forgetful hearer."
We don't have the time to go through all of those Old Testament texts in which God said "do not forget Me, do not forget Me, remember Me, remember Me." Nor do we even have time to go through all of them in the New Testament in which we as believers are reminded to remember. We forget so easily.
Some years ago I read a wonderful little book called God's Forgetful Pilgrims. It was an indictment of Christians, written by Michael Griffiths. He says in the book, quote: "Christians have a strange amnesia. A high proportion of people who go to church have forgotten what it's all for. Week by week they attend services in a special building and go through time-honored routine but give little thought to the purpose of what they're doing. The Bible talks about the bride of Christ, I might add pure and chaste, but the church seems more like a ragged Cinderella, hideous among the ashes who has forgotten she's supposed to be a beautiful lady," end quote. He is simply saying we forget. We forget what we're all about. We forget why we do what we do. We forget what we're supposed to be. Any teacher knows that people forget. And so a teacher is very much aware of forgetfulness.
There's a second and corollary truth, reality to that that teachers also know and that is familiarity. While you must, because they forget, remind them over and over and over and over of the same thing, it you do it in the same way they will think they heard it before and they'll tune you out. So the challenge of teaching is to repeat in a different way the same great truth so people hear it freshly. This is very challenging.
I'll give you a personal testimony, this is extremely challenging for me because what I say is not only heard here and then heard on tape, and then heard on radio, but often heard in pubic places where I have opportunity to minister. And even though you know people have forgotten the truth and need to be reminded, if you don't say it in a fresh way they will think they already know it well, it comes through in familiar terms and it tends to be water off a duck's back. This was graphically illustrated to me in a somewhat painful experience. Patricia and I flew up to Calgary-Alberta, Canada, and a gentleman picked us up to drive us to Prairie Bible Institute. Prairie Bible Institute is in Three Hills Alberta, which is not near anyplace and in and of itself is no place. There were a couple of markets and a drug store and that's about it, and the Prairie Bible Institute, a very fine and kind of historic place for training missionaries. And I was to be the speaker at the missions conference.
It's a rather primitive place. Patricia and I remember very vividly that there were no facilities in our room and we had the best room. We were the guests. It had been a long time since we took gang showers, so it was a unique experience. There was one gang shower and one for ladies, but...so we were up there way in the middle of no place. And I spoke all week, every day, and we had a wonderful time. I think there were about 3,000 people for the conference, which amazed me.
And after the week was over, I came back, I received a lady's letter. "Dear Pastor MacArthur, I want you to know that I drove 600 miles to hear you and after coming 600 miles you had the audacity to give the same illustration in one of your messages that I heard you give on the radio. You should take these things into consideration. Some of us have gone to great trouble...see, I almost memorized the letter, it's indelible in my mind...some of us have gone to great trouble to hear you speak and don't expect to hear something you said before." So I wrote her back and asked her forgiveness.
But, you know, if we hear something and we've heard it before, it just kind of sluffs off. One of the challenges that I face, to be very honest with you, in staying at Grace Church is trying to say the same things, the same great truths in different ways for those of you who have patiently endured me for all these many years. That is very challenging. I suppose you realize that if I were to pick up and go to another church, I would have enough sermons to keep me going for another twenty years without studying anything and a group of people who had not heard them unless they have been listening to the radio, or whatever. But God keeps me here to keep me fresh and the challenge is ever before me. And the challenge that I have to face is that I know you forget what I say, I know that because often I test people two or three days after I've said it only to find out they can't quite remember but they did enjoy it. So I know you forget, but I also know I can't tell you the same things in the same way or you will think you've heard it all. And so any good teacher has to remember that people forget but avoid being too familiar.
Young men always say, "Do you use notes when you preach?" When I preach at Grace Church I use rather extensive notes because I would tend to gravitate back to familiar ways of saying things when, in fact, I want to say them in fresh ways. And so I have to think through how to say them differently. And there's a new challenge for me because I want people to walk away and say that was fresh and that was new and that was exciting and I never heard that before. And the truth is, it's the same great truth in another package. You know, there aren't that many different truths in the Bible. It's just that the Bible has a wonderful way of packaging them in all unique different forms. In fact, I would...I would almost dare a man to be a pastor like I have for nearly twenty-two years in the same church and preach fifty-minute sermons for twenty-two years and try to be a topical preacher. You'd have to have left long ago because you'd run out of topics. But if you're an expositor, you can go on forever and ever and ever and ever...as you well know. So we are touching at the heart of this matter of ministry when we touch the issue of remembering.
Now the first thing that we note as we sense the heart of Peter for his people not to forget is the sense of the urgency of ministry. Notice verse 12, this is a very simple text, straightforward, you'll understand it very clearly. "Therefore I shall always be ready to remind you of these things." "Therefore," of course, reaches back to the prior text in which he had been discussing the greatness of salvation and the blessedness of assurance. His discussion of the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ in verse 1, his discussion of multiplied grace and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord, his discussion of the fact that we have received everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence, the discussion of the great and precious promises that we have received that have made us partakers of the divine nature because we've escaped the corruption of the world...all of that is the discussion of the great reality of salvation.
And then beginning in verse 5 he began to talk about how you experience the assurance of that salvation by adding to your faith moral excellence and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and brotherly kindness and love. And when these qualities are there, and increasing, you're not going to forget your spiritual condition, you're going to remember that you're saved. And so because of the greatness of salvation and because of the glorious blessedness of assurance, he says, "Therefore I shall always be reminding you of these things." I don't want you to forget how great salvation is in order that you might thank God for it, praise God for it, glorify God for it and take advantage of all its resources. And I don't want you to ever forget how marvelous it is to have the assurance of salvation and so I am going to be always ready to remind you about these things.
There is the reality that Christians can forget the blessedness of salvation and wander off into sin, right? That we can turn our back on the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ, that we can turn our back on multiplied grace and peace, that we can turn our back on all of the divine power that grants to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. We can turn our back on the precious, magnificent promises that are ours as partakers of the very nature of God and we can wander off into sin. And so he says I'm always ready to remind you about this. And we can by also wandering into sin forfeit our assurance and so he eagerly will remind us of the crucial, essential, important, greatness of salvation and blessedness of assurance.
By the way, would you notice also in verse 12 there's a future tense here, "Therefore I shall always be ready to remind you." And he is simply saying whenever I am given the opportunity at any point whenever I can do it, I will do it. But there's another thought in his mind here and that is that he is now writing this letter and he is looking not at the writing of the letter but the future reading of the letter. And he is anticipating that everyone who reads the letter he is going to again find him again ready to remind us of these things. Every time 2 Peter is picked up and the first chapter is read, Peter is reminding us of these things. And so both preaching and writing is reminding.
Peter wanted to have his people avoid the hazards of negligence. He wanted to work hard to press home the issues. And so he says I'm always ready to remind you. I will remind you in my preaching, I will remind you in my teaching. I will remind you by penning this letter which will go on throughout the future whenever read to remind you again. He wanted to leave a legacy, he wanted to leave a final will and testament to remind people of the greatness of salvation and the blessedness of assurance and to make sure that false teachers and false doctrine didn't steal any of that away.
Much of the ministry, beloved, is reminding you. I know that it's not uncommon for you to walk away from Grace Church and say, "Well, I heard that before." Good because the day I announce some new truth to you that you've never heard before, you can throw me out. There are not new truths to this generation, only a clearer understanding of the Word of God, perhaps a truer interpretation, but it is a ministry of reminding, reminding you of doctrinal truth and reminding you of moral requirements.
Peter was really no different than the others. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 15:15, "I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again." Paul knew that every time he spoke or every time he wrote he was not necessarily saying something new, but that was all right. In Philippians 3:1, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord," he says, "to write the same things again is no trouble to me and it is a safeguard for you."
Paul had the same thing in mind that Peter had in mind, repetition for the sake of safeguard. Even though, and I want you to listen to this, even though your conscious mind says I've heard that before, somehow it stacks another brick on your subconscious mind to hear it again. And you build a strong and fortified foundation through repetition.
That dear lady up at Prairie Bible Institute perhaps needed to acknowledge that truth that having heard it a second time might have driven it more deeply into her mind and heart. It's almost as if the first time you hear a truth it sets the nail in the wood and the second and third and fourth time you hear it are the hammer blows that drive it deep.
Peter knew we forget very easily. He knew the urgency of being ready, even eager to remind people. It is frankly discouraging if you think about it very long how fast we forget. There have been surveys done in the past that I don't even like to read that say within an hour after a given sermon, people have forgotten ninety percent of it. That is a frightening statistic. You say, "How do you overcome that?" By repeating the same things over and over again in different ways, just as the Word of God does. And any faithful minister feels the urgency of doing that. Why? Because of the greatness of salvation, because of the blessedness of assurance, because we want you to live godly lives so that you can participate in the fullness of salvation and participate in the blessing of assurance, and so we want you to remember and so we are set about to remind you. That's part of...that's part of the pastoral duty.
Secondly, Peter not only understood the urgency of ministry which is to remind people as a matter of warning them against the hazards of error and sin, but he secondly understood the spirit of ministry. While you are reminding people you have to recognize that they do know some things. Peter shows that proper spirit, that spirit of graciousness, that spirit of gentleness, that spirit of meekness, that spirit of tenderness. And so he speaks in that way, look back to verse 12. "I shall always be ready to remind you of these things," that's the urgency of it, but look at the spirit of it, "even though you already know them and have been established in the truth which is present with you." There's a sweetness in that as he says to his people...I know you know these things, I know you've heard these things, I know these things have been built into your life and I know that they are present with you, but still I remind you of them. That's the spirit.
When I went away to seminary, I'll never forget my first experience in speech class. They wanted to teach us how to speak. And usually when you first go to seminary in your class there are some people who are timid, they don't want to speak. They have a very difficult time getting in front of the class of twenty guys and speaking. You know the number one fear that people have is the fear of public speaking, that's a number one fear. It can be very frightening. And so when you're in seminary you have to overcome that. Personally I never had a problem with that, but some people do.
And I can remember that in those classes they would try to get us to get out of ourselves a little bit because the tendency, even if you didn't mind speaking, was to be somewhat shy and somewhat matter of fact and soft spoken. And so endeavoring to try to get us to transcend our inhibitions, they wouldn't, first of all, have us give our own speech but they would have us memorize something so we weren't thinking about what we were saying, we were only thinking about how we were saying it. And the first thing that they gave me to memorize was a speech and I will never forget the first part of the speech, and we were to give it at full volume. This was my introduction to preaching in seminary, here are the first few lines, "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things." Now that was the first thing I learned in seminary. Now that is not immediately translatable into the church, not if you're thinking clearly. You don't say to your congregation, "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things." I suppose there are some who may have taken that as the initial pattern for all effective preaching, but some of us got over that.
When you talk to the people of God there should be a gentleness and a meekness and a graciousness. Peter shows that. He wants to leave no impression on them that he doesn't believe in their devotion to Christ. There isn't any condescension here. He is the one, you remember, who said you're not to lord it over the flock. And even though he knows about forgetfulness, there's a graciousness in his spirit. He says, "Even though you already know this," I'm not here to tell you something you don't know, I have great confidence and great trust in what you already have learned, what you have already come to believe, what you have already affirmed. But I just want to remind you.
Peter would have recognized, I think, what is in Romans 10. Do you remember in verse 8 it says, "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith which we are preaching." Paul as he writes to the Romans is giving them a tremendous amount of theology. He's laying out the gospel from one end to the other. But he stops right here and he says, "I just want to let you know that I realize that this truth is near you, in your mouth, in your heart...and there's he's quoting out of Deuteronomy...and the word of faith which we're preaching."
It isn't something new to you, I know that it's near to you, it's in your presence.
In Colossians 1 Paul speaks about the word of truth, the gospel, in verse 6 he says, "Which has come to you just as in all the world, also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing even as it has been doing in you, also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." Here he writes this letter to the Colossians full of exhortation, full of calling them to a higher kind of life and yet he says, "I know you've heard the truth, I know you've believed the truth, I affirm all of that, I'm just reminding you, I'm trying to increase your devotion."
First John, John says we have an anointing which we have received from the one who abides in us and have no need for anyone to teach us because His anointing teaches us all things. And he is speaking there, no doubt, about the Holy Spirit. In 2 John in the second verse he says that the truth abides in us and will be with us forever.
When you come to know Christ, John recognizes it, Paul recognizes it, Peter recognized it, when you come to know Christ the truth is in you, the truth abides in you. And Peter is saying I know that. I'm not questioning your salvation. I'm not questioning your faith. I'm not questioning your devotion to Christ, I'm just reminding you because of the urgency since you stand in the path of oncoming false doctrine.
So he says, go back to that verse, even though you already know them and have been established in the truth, the truth means the body of doctrine, you have a solid theology, you...we know you do. In fact, over in chapter 3 would you notice verse 15, he speaks about Paul and his letters. They, no doubt, had exposure to some inspired New Testament letters. So they knew the gospel, they knew the truth. They were even established doctrinally to some degree. And then he says, "It is present with you." This truth, the true gospel and true doctrine is present with you.
And here is certainly a gracious approach. He says, "You know this because you know Christ, you have been taught doctrine, it is presently with you, I acknowledge all of that and yet in the spirit of loving gentle affirmation." He also understand, thirdly, the duty of ministry...the duty of ministry. And I can so much identify with Peter because I sense the onslaught of false doctrine, I sense the encroachment of false teaching all around us. And I feel an urgency about that. At the same time I also know you know the truth of the gospel and you know doctrine and it's present in your heart and mind and yet there is a duty incumbent upon me. Peter articulates it in verse 13, the duty of ministry, he says, "And I consider it right as long as I am in this earthly dwelling to stir you up by way of reminder."
You know, if there was anything that would have compelled Peter it would have been his own defection, right? Was there ever anyone in the history of the world who had a greater opportunity to know truth than Peter? Was there? Couldn't have been. Not only was he included among the Twelve, all of whom had that great opportunity, but he was included among the three, Peter, James and John, who were most intimate with Christ. And he was without question the leader of the Twelve and thus in many ways the most immediate confidant. He must have felt the closeness to Him because he was so brash, he made such major assumptions about what he could say in His presence which indicates that he felt very comfortable there. No man who ever lived had been in greater proximity to the truth, having walked with Jesus for those years, having heard everything that he had taught, having seen all of the miracles that He did, having experienced everything in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that isn't even recorded in the Bible, so many things that even the books of the world couldn't record them, John says, he experienced all that truth and was reminded of it again and again.
You say, "How so?" Listen very carefully. If you read the gospels you will find that our Lord Jesus taught the same truths over and over and over again, sometimes in the same words, sometimes in different words. That's why you may read an expression by our Lord in one context, in one gospel and see it appear in a completely different context in another gospel. That is not proof of redaction or editing of the gospels, that is proof that Jesus was an able teacher who knew you had to repeat the same things. Peter heard them again and again. That is why Jesus was so distressed when even toward the end of His ministry they still hadn't got the message. He says, "How long have I been with you," to them in the Upper Room, "and you still don't know who I am?" And there is Peter after all of that firsthand exposure to truth defecting...defecting at the time of crisis, denying Jesus Christ. Luke 22:31 Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail and you when once you have been turned again strengthen your brethren." And he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death." And He said, "I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me."
Did he? Verse 54, "Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest but Peter was following at a distance and after they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them and a certain servant girl seeing him as he sat in the fire light and looking intently at him, said, `This man was with Him, too.' But he denied it saying, `Woman, I do not know Him.' And a little later another saw him and said, `You are one of them, too.' But Peter said, `Man, I am not.' And after about an hour had passed another man began to insist saying, `Certainly this man also was with Him for he is a Galilean, too.' But Peter said, `Man, I do not know what you are talking about.' And immediately while he was still speaking a cock crowed and the Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord how He had told him before a cock crows today you'll deny Me three times, and he went out and...what?...wept bitterly."
See, Peter knew firsthand that even though you have a lot of truth and it's present with you, you need constant reminder lest you defect. The teacher never holds back truth because it is known. Truth bears repetition. That's how you build the blocks of the wall of strength.
And so he says in verse 13, "I consider it right, I consider it fitting, I consider it proper, I consider it my duty as long as I am in this earthly dwelling." The word "earthly dwelling" here means a tent. As long as I am in this tent, and that's a great graphic way to see the human body, it's only a tent, he's borrowing here from the nomadic people of the Old Testament who lived in tents and had no permanent dwelling, only a temporary place where they unfolded a tent, stayed for a while, folded it up and moved on. From Abraham onward that was a pattern of life. It's a beautiful way to see the body. Your body is only a tent, a temporary, transitory place for your soul to live and some day it will be folded up and your soul will move to another place abandoning that tent. But Peter says as long as I am in this tent, this temporary, transitory passing place to live, as long as I'm in it I consider it right to stir you up by way of reminder.
He was saying it's a lifelong calling. He was saying there's no retirement. I do this till I leave my tent. And I really feel that way in my own heart. I want to keep doing what I do until I leave my tent, or lose my mind. If I lose my mind, you can shuffle me off to the home. But Peter had a lifelong perspective here. What was he going to be doing as long as he lived? He was going to stir you up. It means awaken you out of sleep, awaken you out of laziness, arouse you from your lethargy, quicken you...the idea of thoroughly arousing you. Believers can become lazy and sleepy and drowsy, failing to be a alert, clear minded. Peter was probably thinking about the graphic illustration of this in his own life when there he was with James and John in the garden at the most crucial time in the life of the Messiah and He wanted them to pray and what did they do? Slept...slept. There's a sense in which every preacher and teacher knows that his responsibility is to stimulate you, to awaken you from your lethargy and your laziness and apathy and spiritual drowsiness.
How do you do that? Verse 13 says by way of reminder. Only a few major issues in the Scripture and we just keep reminding you about them. Listen, no amount of knowledge of salvation, no amount of firmness in the truth puts you beyond the need of being reminded. Faithful teachers don't have to come up with something new all the time, don't have to be spinning off some new and entertaining kind of thing, they just continue to remind people.
It's so tragic when people forget. While I was up in Oregon this week I was reading the third chapter of Jeremiah. Would you look at it with me for just a moment? The third chapter of Jeremiah gives us the story of the tragedy of forgetting. The kingdom was divided, of course. Israel, the northern kingdom, had already gone into captivity, never to return. Judah, the southern kingdom, had come to the knife edge, the brink of judgment, captivity for Judah was imminent. The Lord begins to address Jeremiah and speaks of Israel in the third person in verses 6 through 11, He speaks of Israel in the third person, reciting their sin. And the third person emphasizes the distance between God and Judah, and there is a distance that sin has brought about.
Though He refers here to Israel, He is referring to the existing Israel which is Judah, they're the only ones that remain. Verse 6, "The Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, `Have you seen what faithless Israel did?'" And here He is referring, of course, to all of the defection, northern and southern. "She went up on every high hill and under every green tree and she was a harlot there." The sin of Israel was defection, apostasy and open, flagrant turning away from God for the very purpose of committing lewd, sexual idolatry like the Canaanites in the worship of Baal. The whole country, every high mountain, they always used the high places because the pagans believed it was closer to heaven and it gave shade to their lustful passions and was the place of their sinful rebellion.
In verse 7, "And I thought after she had done all these things," again third person, "she will return to Me, but she didn't return and her treacherous sister Judah saw it." Repeated calls to repentance were ignored by the northern kingdom and Judah, her sister, saw it all and she saw what happened to the northern kingdom and she didn't heed either. The whole nation had fallen into this idolatry. Israel was outspoken in rejecting God. Judah still retained the temple ritual, it was a cloak for apostasy and idolatry and treachery.
Verse 8, "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel I had sent her away," that's the destruction of Samaria in 722 B.C., the end of the northern kingdom. "I gave her a bill of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear but she went and was a harlot also." The southern kingdom paid no attention to what happened in the north, just went right on sinning. Verse 9, "It came about because of the lightness of her harlotry," lightness there means not...not minimal but light heartedness, boisterous, treating it lightly. "And it came about because of the lightness of her harlotry she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees." This is a spiritual adultery worshiping stones and trees as if they were true gods. And it's hard to know what's more shocking, the sin or the flippancy and light heartedness or the stupidity of it.
Verse 10, "`And yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah didn't return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,' declares the Lord." The southern kingdom had a form of returning to God but it was deceitful, it was deceptive. The sacrifices being made in the south were nothing but deception, deliberate deception.
In verse 11 the Lord said to me, "Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah." Boy, what a statement. Israel looked better than Judah because hypocrisy is the worst sin. Idolatry is bad enough, hypocrisy is worse.
Then in verse 12 the Lord moved in to the first person because He moves from describing the sins of the southern and the northern kingdom in to a call to repentance in the first person. "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, `Return faithless Israel,' declares the Lord, `I'll not look upon you in anger for I am gracious,' declares the Lord, `I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God and have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree and you have not obeyed My voice,' declares the Lord. `Return, O faithless sons,' declares the Lord, `for I am a master to you and will take you one, from a city and two, from a family and bring you to Zion and I will give you shepherds after My own heart and will feed you on knowledge and understanding. It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,' declares the Lord," and so forth.
Grace upon grace upon grace. The people of God had known much blessing. Eight hundred years of blessing, forty years of deliverance, four hundred years in Egypt of preservation, and what had gone wrong? Verse 21, "A voice is heard on the bare heights, the weeping and the supplication of the sons of Israel because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the Lord their God."
Forgetting, even after all of that opportunity...eight hundred years of blessing, forty years of deliverance, four hundred years of preservation, and all the divine oracles being committed to them and they forgot. The knowledge of the truth is no insulation against forgetting, and so we remind you and remind you and remind you.
Look at Psalm 19 for a moment. Psalm 19, just a few verses to read to you. Listen to what David says knowing his own heart, verse 16, "I shall delight in Thy statutes, I shall not forget Thy word." Verse 83, "Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Thy statutes." Verse 93, "I will never forget Thy precepts." Verse 109, "My life is continually in my hand, yet I do not forget Thy law." One hundred and forty-one, "I am small and despised and yet I do not forget Thy precepts." Verse 153, "Look upon my affliction and rescue me for I do not forget thy law." And the last verse, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek Thy servant for I do not forget Thy commandments."
So Peter understood the urgency, the spirit and the duty to remind his people. And he is in a long line of others who understood it as well. Lastly, he understood the brevity of ministry. And this becomes a compelling...notice verse 14, he says, "Knowing," that is--I have no doubt--"that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling, my tent, is imminent." What did he mean by that? Death, clearly and simply death. Death is described very aptly as the laying aside of a tent. You remember 2 Corinthians 5:1, "We know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens, for indeed in this tent we groan longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven." Paul understood that, that the physical body is a tent and we long for a permanent house.
So Peter says I know that my death is imminent. What does that word "imminent" mean? Well this is a very significant word and I think it carries a rich meaning for Peter. It can mean soon, it can mean swift. Those are two different things. He's saying my death will be soon, possibly my death will be swift. If he is saying soon, he means just that. If he is saying swift, he means he's not going to die of a lingering illness.
You say, "Which did he mean?" Well he uses the same word in chapter 2 verse 1 and it is translated "swift, swift destruction," which seems best in the context. I believe it would be safe to say in this context that it means both. You say, "Why do you say that?" Because at this time Peter is in his seventies...seventies. For him to say my death will be soon is very reasonable. He has outlived most people of his age. But he also is implying that it will be swift. Why? How does he know that? Look at the end of verse 14, "As also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me." What? You mean the Lord Jesus made it clear to him that his death was going to be sudden? Precisely that.
You say, "When did that happen?" Turn back to John 21...John 21, the last chapter in John's gospel. Jesus is talking to Peter, restoring him here, asking him if he loves Him. Telling him to tend My lambs, shepherd My sheep, feed My sheep. Calling him, commissioning him, setting him apart for ministry. Then in verse 18 Jesus tells him about his death. By the way, this is about thirty-seven years earlier, sometime around thirty-seven, thirty-eight years earlier. Listen to what Jesus said to him way back then when he was a young man. "Truly, truly I say to you, when you were younger you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished." In other words, you did what you wanted, you controlled your own life. "But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands," what does that mean? It means that you will yield up your hands to someone else and they will gird you, bind you, tie you and bring you where you do not wish to go.
What's He talking about? Verse 19, John says, "He said this signifying what kind of death he would glorify God." What kind of death was it? You stretch forth your hands...that phrase is used in sources outside the Bible to speak of crucifixion cause the hands were outstretched and tied or nailed. Jesus is telling Peter, you're young now but when you get old you're going to be tied and taken where you don't want to go. And He is predicting an execution. And it even has the possible sense of a crucifixion. This dear Apostle, then, for nearly forty years had lived knowing that he was going to die a swift, sudden death by execution. That would be something to live with, wouldn't it? For all those years the reality of that? And having seen it with your own eyes, not only in the case of Jesus Christ but in the case of many others who were crucified in and around the same time. The most excruciating death imaginable. If you want to know the test of Peter's recommissioning, if you want to know whether he was a transformed guy, then compare his denial with living a life nearly forty years long knowing at any moment his life could be swiftly brought to an end by execution and still being faithful. And here he even appears hopeful. So he knows. Jesus said, "When you grow old," and he's old, so it will be soon, and he knows it will be sudden.
So there's a sense of the brevity of life. So he says in verse 15, "I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind." He says I'm going to lay this stuff down before I go so that after I'm gone you'll have it.
What's he talking about? Well he may be talking about his verbal expressions, but I believe the major thing on his heart is the writing of this letter. I am being diligent that at any time after my departure, from then on any time, you'll be able to call these things to mind. Why? Because you can pick up a Bible. Isn't it wonderful to realize that you and I in studying 2 Peter are fulfilling Peter's desire? This is exactly what he wanted to happen. And the closer he got to the end, the faster he ran. I love that. He didn't slow down toward the end, he sped up.
One of my favorite men of church history was Savonarola. Savonarola lived in the fifteenth century. He perhaps was the greatest Italian that ever lived. He had an amazing life, very brief. He set at the outset of his ministry in his first sermon that he believed God would give him eight years of life as a preacher. And he was so intensely motivated by that that he became a flaming voice. One historian says, "His preaching was with a voice of thunder and his denunciation of sin so terrific that the people who listened to him were half dazed, bewildered and speechless. His audiences were so often in tears that the whole church resounded with their sobs and weeping. He often preached unmovable for five hours with a face illuminated and he shattered Italy. In 1498 by order of the Pope he was burned at the stake and his last words were, `The Lord has suffered so much for me.'" And history tells us he died exactly eight years after his first sermon.
He understood the limits of life. He understood the brevity of life. So did Peter. And so he said I want my ministry to be effective and so as long as I am in this earthly tent I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it in such a way that I leave a legacy so that after I'm gone you may be able to call these things to mind.
I understand that. One of the joys of my own ministry, though mine is not inspired as Peter's was, one of the joys of my own ministry is to leave a legacy in the lives of people who by hearing the Word of God preached so frequently will carry on that truth even when I'm gone. Another is by tapes and books, leaving the legacy of the same messages again and again being preached, even after I'm gone. Peter says, "My desire in this epistle to you is that whenever and wherever, at any time after my death," and he uses the word here...see the word "departure," it's the word "exodus," "after my exodus, after I leave this foreign land and go to the promise land in my own private exodus, you may be able to call these things to mind."
He's not concerned that you remember him. He's concerned that you remember what he taught. It wasn't long after this that he died. The unanimous tradition of the early church says he was crucified as Christ predicted he would be. Before he was crucified, though, he was forced to watch the crucifixion of his wife. It is said that during his wife's crucifixion he stood at the foot of her cross, continually encouraging her with the words, "Remember the Lord, remember the Lord, remember the Lord." And tradition says that after she died, he willingly died only he insisted that he not be allowed to be crucified like his Lord because he was not worthy, and he insisted that they crucify him upside down, which they did.
The man understood the urgency, the spirit, the duty, the brevity of ministry. This epistle, his last legacy. And here we are fulfilling his hope as we study it together that we too might have the knowledge of salvation, the knowledge of Scripture, the knowledge of sanctification that we might not be deceived by the false teachers of our own time. We can say, I know with eager hearts, a thank you to the Spirit of God for using Peter to provide this for us. Amen? Let's bow in prayer.
Thank You, Father, for this hour in Your Word tonight. How refreshing it's been, how our hearts rejoice as we have touched, as it were, the life of this dear servant, and touch it yet even as he being dead yet speaks to us through his letters. We thank You for his legacy and we pray that we might be faithful as we minister to follow the pattern of his own life in urgency, spirit, duty and even with the brevity to do all we can to leave a lasting legacy. Thank You, Father, for a glimpse of a choice servant, in Jesus' name. Amen.