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A Letter That Rattles Our Cage, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
July 17, 2023 7:05 am

A Letter That Rattles Our Cage, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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Insight for Living
Chuck Swindoll

Have you ever had a friend write you a personal letter that shocked you?

Maybe it was unsettling news that caught you off guard, or perhaps you needed confrontation. Well, Chuck Swindoll recently presented a verse-by-verse study through Peter's first New Testament letter. And today on Insight for Living, we're embarking on our next adventure, this time through Peter's second letter.

According to Chuck, this one is unsettling. He refers to 2 Peter as a letter that rattles our cage. If it weren't for holidays and anniversaries, we'd probably overlook the significant events they represent. From notes on the calendar to strings on our fingers, we need reminders that slow the pace and break the constancy of our everyday routines.

We need help to stir up our minds so that we recall what's most important in life. The apostle Peter penned his second letter about one year before he was martyred in Rome. Peter knew his time on earth was drawing to a close, so he didn't have time to write about incidental matters. Under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter chose to remind his readers of essential themes, the key issues that mattered not only to his first-century audience, but also to all of us here in the 21st century. My Bible is open to the first chapter of Peter's second letter. I'll begin reading with four verses that underscore the emphasis Peter had in mind.

As I do, try to imagine the aging, white-haired apostle seated leaning over his table, pressing his pen into the parchment. I'll be reading verses 12-15 from the New American Standard Bible. Peter writes this, Therefore, I will 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. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of 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 will be able to call these things to mind. Peter writes similar words in the third chapter, verses 1-2, along with verses 17-18. This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you, in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men, and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To dig deeper into the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled A Letter That Rattles Our Cage. If you have a Bible with you, open it, please, to the unusual and rather unknown book of 2 Peter, perhaps among the least known of all the letters in the New Testament, maybe one of the least known books in the Bible. I have found in life that an interesting phenomenon exists that when it comes to sequels, usually the original is the most significant and the sequel is inferior to it. The movie industry is finding this out even though they keep producing sequels. Ghostbusters, I understand, was a blockbuster, but Ghostbusters II was not anything like the original. Jaws was enough to keep people out of the bathtub for two weeks, but Jaws II and Jaws III and son of Jaws and granddaughter of Jaws and all the other Jaws did not draw the crowd that the original brought.

Many of the people in the movie stood up and cheered the Italian Stallion and Rocky as he finally won the fight, but when it came to Rocky II and Rocky III and Rocky V and Rocky VIII and however many there are, it just hasn't been as exciting. There's something about the original that gets our attention and gets our vote. That's true in books as well. The sequels in the book business do not do nearly as well as the originals.

It's true in automobiles. An original design will capture the fancy of many car buyers, but duplications of that design and sequels, we might call them, are not nearly as popular. The original, the first edition, the initial idea is something that everybody seems to jump on. Now this is true until you get to the books of the Bible. I don't know of anybody who would agree that II Corinthians is less important or less interesting or less inspired than I Corinthians or II Timothy is not nearly as helpful as I Timothy. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for those two books, II Corinthians and II Timothy, we'd know very little about the Apostle Paul personally.

The first letters are more doctrinal in style, but the second letters are more biographical when it comes to the Timothy and Corinthian letters. II Samuel tells us a lot about David we would not otherwise know. I Samuel gets you ready for the life of David by presenting Samuel and Saul and their lives as they're set forth in the days of the Old Testament. I don't know of anybody who would say we don't really need or it isn't important to read II Samuel.

We've just got I Samuel. That was the first and most important. And no one would say they're more inspired than the second letters. Now this is never more significant than in the first and second letters of Peter. In the first letter of Peter, which we have studied in days past, we have five wonderful practical chapters written to people who were persecuted and scattered all over the empire. It's very clear what is of concern to Paul, to Peter, who writes that first letter. He's concerned about their encouragement and about comforting them as they're going through literal pain and physical mistreatment, mental anguish, emotional upset, and a number of them have even watched their families martyred.

Terrible times. Then the second letter comes along and this letter, though briefer, in fact it's only 61 verses in all. You know there are some chapters in the Bible longer than the second letter Peter wrote, but none more intense. This second letter of Peter is perhaps the most intense, save the letter of Jude, of all the letters in the New Testament. He writes it on the edge of his seat.

It is a letter that you will find disquieting. I don't know about you, but when I go to a new city to live there, I like to get a map and to take a look at the whole city. I did that when we moved to Dallas. I did that when we moved to San Francisco.

I did that when we moved to Los Angeles. I remember back in the summer of 1971, the very first serious study I made, I made of the city with this big freeway map. There was a member of our church in Fullerton who told me that if you really want to learn your way around the city, you need to learn the freeways. And he gave me, in fact it was a used, rather well-worn map he had used for a long time. He said, learn the names, learn the numbers, learn the direction, get the layout of the city. And I spent about a day and a half off and on just memorizing the freeway system.

That was the best thing I could have done. I've only gotten lost two or three dozen times since then. There are vast areas of this city that you and I have never been in, most likely.

Certainly it's true of me. But I know where that freeway leads and there have been new freeways that have been added since then. If you know the freeway system, if you know how it's all tied together, you've got a general picture in your mind of the tapestry, if you please, of this vast city and you can get around. Now when I say that about a city, and by the way I did that when I went to Boston, I remember going up in the top of the Prudential Building, which was then the largest city, largest building, downtown Boston. And I had a friend there with me who stood there and we walked around that almost top floor and we took in a view of the city as a whole. You could see almost Cape Cod. You could see far beyond Starrow Drive. You could see the airport, Logan Airport, down there by the water. You could watch the movement of vehicles, though they were a long ways away, about 50 stories up as we looked at the whole city. And I got a feeling from that hour or so visit in that overview of what the whole layout was like.

Very helpful. Now when I go to study a letter or a book of the Bible, I don't like to dig right into verse 1 and then take verse 2 and then go to verse 3 and then we all close our Bibles and come back next time for the beginning of the study. I like to look at the whole thing.

I like to see what it's all about. So allow me for a while to just give you some general observations and comments about the letter. First of all, let me make three or four introductory comments about 2 Peter. Here's the first one. This letter is more difficult to read and understand than 1 Peter.

Even though it is shorter, it is much more complicated. At times it is unclear and I confess to you it is even vague. The writer has a deliberate intention which he doesn't hide. Verse 12, chapter 1, he admits, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things even though you already know them.

Sounds like a parent talking to a teenager, doesn't it? I know you know these things but I'm here to remind you and that you have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right as long as I am in this earthly dwelling to stir you up by way of reminder.

Look at chapter 3 in verse 1, similar words. This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder. It's a letter that's designed to rattle our cage. It's designed to stir up our souls, to make us a little uneasy, to keep us on the cutting edge of reality, to help us keep reading the real facts in life as they are. And even though we will know a number of these things, his desire is to stir us up, to spur us into action, to prompt diligence in our lives.

He starts and he stops on the same note. See chapter 1 verse 10, brethren be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you for as long as you practice these things you'll never stumble. Now he says that at the early part of the letter and then at the end he says something similar, 3.14. Therefore beloved since you look for these things be diligent to be found by him in peace, spotless and blameless. Okay, the second general statement I would make about the letter is that the concern is different in this letter than it was in the first letter.

Peter's a few years older, he is closer to death, he is more candid, he I think is more realistic. In the first letter his concern, now don't miss this, was about external sources of pain and hardship, external sources. Slave owners who were unfair, an emperor who was insensitive to spiritual things, the citizenry of the Roman empire that was unsympathetic to spiritual things and the impact it was making on the body of Christ that was spread all over regions of the empire. That's the concern of the first letter. The Gentiles, the unbelievers, those on the outside, but in the second letter you anticipate what I'm going to say. He's concerned about internal sources of corruption, false prophets who have entered in, deceitfully gaining a foothold in the assemblies. I said that the letter of Jude was a lot like this letter in intensity. As a matter of fact, hold your place here in 2 Peter 1 and look at Jude for a moment, moving to the right, just before the book of the Revelation. By the way, that's pronounced Revelation, one of the most common mistakes heard among people as they refer to the Bible as revelations, plural. It's the revelation, singular, of Jesus Christ. The book just before it, the letter, called the letter of Jude, notice what Jude writes in verse 3. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. I've changed my mind. I was going to write a letter about our great salvation, but I have been led by the Spirit to turn my attention and yours to contend for the faith.

Why? Verse 4, because certain persons have crept in unnoticed. Those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons, who turned the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. They have come with stealth. They have come like snakes and they have slipped into the water and they are in hiding.

You don't see them until it's too late. I remember as a little boy swimming in the rice reservoirs down near South Texas, in the South Texas region. We would go down for our vacations at the little town of Palacios.

Surrounding Palacios are numerous rice fields. The good part of it is that there would be these pockets of water that would be supplied with fresh, clear and often cool water from which the water would be taken to irrigate these rice regions. I remember as a little boy with my brother and my sister swimming in those reservoirs. The problem is the snakes also liked those reservoirs.

I will never forget not looking, though our folks had told us time after time to stir us up, to use the biblical term, to remind us of what we knew. Before you go in the water, check for snakes. And of course, being careful as I am, I got to the water and I dived right in. The last thing I remember was my brother who wanted to warn me, we better check for snakes. I thought, not a chance. When I dived down, it was so cool and refreshing and I came around and swam up near the bank only to meet a nice water moccasin that was there to say, good afternoon, how are you?

Nothing happened, but I set a record in getting out of the water that day. It had crept in unawares. False teaching does not come with banners and placards and announcements, handing out leaflets telling you that this is false teaching and we are planning to invade your church. It comes by stealth.

It comes like a snake in a reservoir, ever so quietly and ever so deceitfully. That's the concern of the second letter Peter writes. His concern has to do with the corruption that will come if you don't live a life that is spiritually or if I may, doctrinally alert. Being aware that in latter days, these things will be much more prevalent. The third introductory comment I would make is that second Peter is strange, surprising, and on occasion severe.

It is strange, it is surprising, it will raise your eyebrows at times, and it is severe. It will be so severe at times, you will have a hard time believing that that is really what scripture is saying. You'll also be surprised at what Peter omits. There is not a mention of Christ's suffering or of Christ's resurrection or Christ's ascension in this 61 verse letter. There is not a mention of the church as the body of Christ. There is not a reference to the Holy Spirit or to prayer or to baptism.

Not even a passionate call for the readers of these three chapters to model and to follow the example of Jesus Christ. These things have been observed ever since the letter was written and these things have caused some people to say it is not a canonical book, meaning this letter does not belong in the 66 books or in the books of the Bible that have been compiled and entitled sacred scripture. You realize it was not until late into the fourth century before second Peter was admitted at the council of Laodicea dated 366. The historian Eusebius listed second Peter, second, third John, and James among those in what was called the anti-legomena, books that were not canonical.

They were under such strong dispute. Jerome in his popular Vulgate did include second Peter but he did with a disclaimer. He said many question its Petrine authorship. You see it's so different from first Peter some to this day. Most of the liberal scholars do not believe second Peter was written by the same person as first Peter.

They would also represent that body that would say we question its canonicity. Not really sure it's a part of the text. Another strange thought is in chapter 3 verses 14 and 15. Look at that with me.

We're going to kind of be moving from section to section of the letter, sort of like when I was up in the Prudential building in Boston looking all around. Look at verse 14. Beloved since you look for these things be diligent to be found by him in peace spotless and blameless.

Now look at this next reference. And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation just as also our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him wrote to you also in all his letters. It is very unusual that one writer of scripture would ever refer to another writer of scripture but Peter does that.

Second Peter has the highest number of what is called Hapax Legomena. Once used words in all the original text. 57 words are used in this letter used nowhere else in the Bible.

As a matter of fact 32 of them are not even found in the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. This is a very unusual letter and when you read it in the original you struggle because of its Greek which causes some people to say could it have been Peter the big fisherman not that well educated a man of not a man of letters but of practical training and one wonders how such intelligent and difficult Greek would fall from the pen of the of the big fisherman. Let me say forth about the letter it is more subtle and indirect with regard to theme.

When it comes to the theme it is almost obscure. Probably the most obvious which I've referred to is in verse 10 of chapter one his theme is to make us diligent concerning our calling in light of the troublesome times in which we are living. Well Chuck Swindoll has much more to say about this fourth point. We're just getting started in this study of Peter's second letter so please keep listening. Chuck refers to this New Testament book as a letter that rattles our cage. Remember as you're prepared to dig deeper on your own either in your daily devotional time or with your Bible study group. Insight for Living has prepared online study notes for you. Feel free to take your personal notes online or print out the PDF and share the document with your friends. We call this resource Searching the Scriptures Studies.

You'll find them online at insight dot org slash studies and this series on second Peter is called conquering through conflict. And then as God prompts you to give a donation please follow his lead. It's your voluntary donations that make it possible for us to provide these daily visits with Chuck.

Summertime can be financially lean for Insight for Living as our listening family often breaks their normal schedules for vacation time. Your gift of any amount will be channeled into providing Insight for Living for someone who's desperately searching for hope. And by giving you'll be a blessing to that listener in a way that someone once blessed you. To give a donation today call us. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. Recently we heard from a widow who lives all alone and she said Chuck my husband and I would listen to you every morning on the way to work. We would time our commute so we could listen to you. Today I'm not able to leave the house but I'm so glad I can still hear you on my phone. You know it's your donation that allows us to reach grateful listeners like this one. So again please give us a call. If you're listening in the U.S. call 800-772-8888 or you can give a donation online at I'm Bill Meyer. Chuck's one doll study on the book of Second Peter continues next time right here on Insight for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-16 14:16:04 / 2023-07-16 14:24:40 / 9

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