The idea of being a pilgrim and stranger means that we are not welcome in this world. As a follower of Christ, we follow in his suffering, which includes being hated by the world. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:19–20).
With this theme in mind, Peter wrote his two epistles to the scattered strangers across the Roman world. Through persecution, God’s people had been scattered throughout Judea, Samaria, and beyond, bringing with them their witness of the gospel (Acts 8:1–4). It did not take long for the gospel to reach every corner of Asia Minor. By the time that Peter wrote, there were established churches in all the different provinces. Not only were the Jews hostile to Christianity in these places, but so too was the Greco-Roman world. Peter wrote to encourage new Christians in their walk as believers, spurring them on to holiness and godly living while warning them of false teachers and doctrines.
Peter describes these false teachers as anarchists: they “despise government” and are “not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (2 Pet. 2:10). This same mentality is prevalent in the world today. Many don’t hesitate to mock and ridicule our current president. Some conservatives readily claim all government is evil. On the other hand, some liberals condone acts of violence and lawlessness in the name of “social justice.” In this both groups are condemned by God’s word.
In contrast, Christians have a radically different position on authority and government. Following Christ’s example, we “honour the king” (1 Pet. 2:17) and submit ourselves to the laws of federal, state, and local authorities. If our temptation is to appeal to the Constitution as an excuse to not submit, Peter reminds us that our submission is not contingent on the integrity of any authority figure. Our obedience is due “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (2:18–19; see also 3:13–17; 4:12–16).
False teachers then and now soothe their consciences by claiming that Jesus is not coming back, and that the world will continue as it always has. However, just as God did not spare the angels that sinned, or the old world before the flood, or the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, neither will Christ spare these false teachers, “whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Pet. 2:3). Just as the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were salvation for Noah and Lot, Christ’s return in judgment is salvation for the church (v. 9). Therefore, even though the world is hostile to God’s people, we should not despair but look forward to Christ’s coming and the new heavens and earth (3:12–13).
Peter asks an important question in 2 Peter 3:11: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” This points us back to 1 Peter 1:16, which states, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” To be holy means to be separated from sin and dedicated to God in every aspect of our lives.
But how can we be holy when we are constantly bombarded with the filth and evil of this world? The tempting answer is to try physical isolation of ourselves and our families by fleeing modern culture and technology like various Anabaptist communities (the Amish, for instance) have done. What we forget is that sin and evil are not just “out there,” but also in our own hearts. No matter how physically separate we are from the world, we cannot escape the world of iniquity that is part of our own sinful human nature (1 Pet. 2:10; 4:1–3; 2 Pet. 1:9).
And yet the people of God can be holy. Peter outlines how this is possible in 1 Peter 1:19–23. We must be born again by the word of God, which makes us conscious of our redemption in the precious blood of Jesus. From this redemption flows a faith in the risen Christ, who sanctifies us by his Holy Spirit. The rest of 1 Peter and 2 Peter 1:5–10 show how this holiness is manifested in concrete ways by believers living unto Christ.
Being holy in a hostile world is not easy, but it is worth it in the end, “for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11).
Rebekah is a wife and mother in the home. She attends Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, CA, with her family.
|June 8||1 Pet. 1:1–2||What description does Peter give those to whom he is writing?||323 v. 2|
|June 9||1 Pet. 1:3–5||Where do these strangers belong?||203|
|June 10||1 Pet. 1:6–9||What is the purpose of trials in our earthly life?||202|
|June 11||1 Pet. 1:10–12
|Do you search the Scriptures like the Old Testament saints, desiring to understand Christ’s sufferings and exaltation?||48 vv. 1–2, 5–8|
|June 12||1 Pet. 1:13–16||What should be the Christian’s response to such a gracious salvation?||407|
|June 13||1 Pet. 1:17–20||How was our redemption accomplished?||232|
|June 14||1 Pet. 1:21–25||How sure is your salvation? How do these verses help prevent any uncertainty you might have in your mind?||332|
|June 15||1 Pet. 2:1–3||How are you going to grow in sanctified living?||333|
|June 16||1 Pet. 2:4–8
|What is the church? What is her purpose?||133|
|June 17||1 Pet. 2:9–10||How does the church come to be?||237|
|June 18||1 Pet. 2:11–16||How does the church conduct herself while on the earth?||125 v. 1|
|June 19||1 Pet. 2:17–25||How is Christ’s suffering an example to us when we are treated unfairly?||216|
|June 20||1 Pet. 3:1–7||What does holiness look like for husbands and wives?||360|
|June 21||1 Pet. 3:8–13||What does holy speech look like?||24|
|June 22||1 Pet. 3:14–22||What is an “answer of a good conscience toward God”?||143|
|June 23||1 Pet. 4:1–11||Are you trying to blur the differences between you and the world, or are you okay with being seen as strange when you don’t indulge in excessive or riotous living?||271|
|June 24||1 Pet. 4:12–19
|Whose opinion of you matters most?||217|
|June 25||1 Pet. 5:1–4||What important place do elders have in the church when it comes to holy living in a hostile world?||223|
|June 26||1 Pet. 5:5–9||What instruction does Peter give to the “younger” in the church? How does this apply to yourself?||322 v. 1|
|June 27||1 Pet. 5:10–14||What comfort can you take from Peter’s closing benediction?||246|
|June 28||2 Pet. 1:1–4||How do we receive these precious promises?||326|
|June 29||2 Pet. 1:5–11||Why is it important to add temperance to knowledge?||101 vv. 4–5|
|June 30||2 Pet. 1:12–15||Why must we constantly be reminded of “these things,” even “though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (v. 12)?||325|
|July 1||2 Pet. 1:16–21||How is the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit a “more sure word of prophecy” (v. 19) than even the eyewitness of Peter?||33 vv. 1, 5|
|July 2||2 Pet. 2:1–9||How do verses 1–2 make Peter’s message in 2 Peter 1:12–21 all the more urgent and important to understand?||21 vv. 1–2|
|July 3||2 Pet. 2:10–19||Make a list of characteristics that Peter uses to describe these false teachers. Do you see correlation to modern-day false teachers?||21 vv. 3–4|
|July 4||2 Pet. 2:20–22||What warning is there for teachers who go astray in their doctrine and walk of life?||146 vv. 1–4|
|July 5||2 Pet. 3:1–7||How will we combat the twisting and misapplication of God’s word in these last days?||146 vv. 5–8|
|July 6||2 Pet. 3:8–10||How is it longsuffering for us to go through persecution? Wouldn’t it be better to be raptured first?||188|
|July 7||2 Pet. 3:11–18||“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be”?||265|
Originally published June 2023, Vol 82 No 6 2023