Welcome to Truth for Life and welcome to 2023. We're glad to begin another year together with you studying through the Bible and we're not going to start this year with resolutions, but instead we're going to consider the source of real growth and change in our lives. Alistair Begg is beginning a study in 2 Peter with a message titled Grace and Peace. The context in which we come to 2 Peter without going into a lot of details that you can find out for your own with a good commentary is simply that the environment to which Peter was writing was an environment in which false teaching was clearly on the rise. We know that because he's addressing these issues and the statements being made by people, primarily individuals denying the reality of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And as a result of that, a kind of moral carelessness and looseness was beginning to creep in amongst the people of God. And Peter writes to them in such a way as to remind them that the things that he and the other apostles have been saying to the flock of God had to do, not with some mystical notion that they'd dreamt up, but actually had to do with historical facts and figures. They were conveying, he says in this letter, the things that they had seen, the eyewitness accounts of verifiable events, in much the same way as John does in his first epistle when he says, The things that I'm writing to you about, dear children, are the things that we have seen, that we have handled, that we have gazed upon with our own eyes. And also, the truth that has then been inscripturated in the very letter that he is writing to these folks. The commentators estimate that this was written probably in the sixties, in the early to mid sixties, just before, of course, Peter was put to death.
It wouldn't be written after he was put to death, clearly, but it was written before he was put to death, which was under the persecutions of Nero, probably. And with all of the impending thought of his departure looming before him, he writes what is his second letter to these believers. Now, there's usually a key into a book and a key into a letter, and I think there clearly is here in 2 Peter, and it doesn't come right at the beginning, but it actually comes in the statements that he makes from verse 12 on. And I want to suggest to you, without spending a great deal of time on it, that the key to understanding just what is taking place that opens the door both to the content and structure of this letter is actually in this little paragraph, which begins, I will always, so, he says, I will always remind you of these things. It's right, he says in verse 13, to refresh your memory. Notice his phraseology, as long as I live in the tent of this body. And in verse 15, I want to make every effort to see that after my departure, you will always be able to remember these things.
Now, why is he doing this? Well, he's seeking to guard the readers against error and at the same time to put them on guard. And the way that he accomplishes this is by conveying to them the truths which provide the necessary basis for growing to maturity and for being men and women of stability. That, of course, is the responsibility of all who have a responsibility in pastoral leadership. And therefore, I, along with my colleagues here, do a disservice to you if we fail to provide for you the doctrinal underpinnings that will allow you to grow to maturity and become men and women of stability.
And what he does is simply walks them through what are the basics. It's a dose, if you like, of preventative medicine, of necessary preventative medicine. And many of you who are here tonight are in the health world, in the world of medicine. And you know, as well as others of us who read the newspapers, that a tremendous amount of money is spent on healthcare in the United States of America.
Approximately $1.4 trillion a year is expended on health. Hence the great interest on the part of, not least of all the insurance companies, to engage in preventative medicine on the basis that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Now, he's really operating on the same basis in spiritual terms, making sure that his readers are not distracted by all the voices that are filling the air, according to verse 1 of chapter 2, the false prophets who had been among the people. So, he says, there will be false teachers that come among you.
They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them and bringing swift destruction upon themselves. He speaks very straightforwardly, and he sets an example to all who will be involved in the care of souls. Despite the pressure to capitulate to contemporary modern educational theory, I think it remains important for us at Parkside, from the very earliest age on and up, to teach our children in ways that are memorable and to use whatever mechanisms work in order to do the same. I, along with some of you, was brought up on very old-fashioned memorization skills which seem now to be far and removed from anything that is represented in our day. Although when I say this, every so often a Sunday school teacher comes up to me and says, Oh, no, no, no, we did that just this morning. We were doing that today.
You're not the only one. So, for example, how many of you tonight, if I said that we were going to engage in sword drill, would know exactly what I'm referring to? Just put up your hands.
Okay? So probably about thirty-three percent know what sword drill is. So that means it's sixty-six percent having a clue in the wide world. So I'm going to tell you what it is. In the whole idea of being soldiers and ready with the equipment necessary, in Sunday school, teaching us that the Bible is the sword of the Spirit, the teacher would call out various verses of the Bible, and you had to look them up, and the first one that found it stood up and had the opportunity to read it out.
It may seem like simple pleasures in these days of dramatic video games, but nevertheless, for anybody with a competitive edge at all, it meant a great deal. And so you had to sheath the sword, and then you had to draw the sword. And the reason you held it up in the air like that was to prevent people cheating by having their Bibles down on their laps and thumbing through before the person said what the actual verse was. So the skeptical Sunday school teacher had everybody hold the thing up in the air, and then he would say, two kings, nine, fifteen. Then the Bibles would come down, and the little fingers would go everywhere till they found two kings, nine, fifteen.
Then somebody would stand up. And all the great achievement of being able to read it out. At the same time, we would rehearse together one and another—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and so on—and we memorized it just straight up and off by heart. We knew the Ten Commandments in order. Many of us don't even know, couldn't come up with Ten Commandments. And are desperately keen to make sure that I don't launch us into a sword row right now.
Because there's a horrible feeling that we'll still be scrambling around after we're on verse 7, and twenty-five people have stood up ahead of us. Susan and I have a friend in Glasgow who often gives to us both books on any and every occasion. And the last book that I received from this family friend was a book on Glasgow trams.
And there was a tramway system in Glasgow which ran until I was about six years of age, and then they took them out because trams were passé. But it is a wonderful book on the Glasgow trams, filled me with nostalgia, and she inscribed in the front cover of the book this, to remind you never to forget. To remind you never to forget.
I know what she was saying. Don't you ever forget where you came from. Don't you ever forget these essentials. Now, that is what Peter is doing here. And that really is the responsibility of pastoral ministry—to make sure to constantly remind one another so that we don't forget. That it is a matter of urgency is clear from verse 14. I'm going to soon put the tent aside, he says, as the Lord Jesus has made clear to me. Therefore, since I'm about to move on, I want to make sure that I leave my mark upon you, and the mark that I want to leave is in this repetitive element. I will always, verse 12, remind you.
Purposefully. Now, you see, Peter's fear, says Christopher Greene, is not that the next generation will codify and fossilize the truth, but rather that they will become so careless about it that they will forget it altogether. What do you think the great danger is in the transition from one generation to the next, especially at this time, where there is scant regard for the Bible, scant awareness of the essentials, an unwillingness to do the dutiful task of simply committing things to memory? Is the great danger that our children and our children's children will codify truth and leave it locked away somewhere as unrealistic dogma?
Or is the more realistic danger that they will forget about it altogether? Now, Peter, as with other Jewish men and women of his time, was well aware of all the markers that God had given his people throughout the Old Testament as an aid to their memory. For example, I won't turn you to these, but I'll give you the Scripture references. In Deuteronomy 16.3, in addressing the issue of the Passover, God says, I want you to do this, I want you to do this, so that all of the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Why did he give this to them in symbolic form?
As an aid to their memory. The standing stones of which you can read in Joshua chapter 4 and 21 and 22. Why does he have them take these stones and set them up in this way? Exact same reason. In the future, when your descendants ask their fathers, What do these stones mean?
Tell them, Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground. So that they were put there as an aid to memory, as a trigger to recollection. And their significance, of course, had to be underpinned by the awareness on the part of God's people as to the nature of what God had been doing. And so the business, says Martyn Lloyd-Jones of the church and of preaching, is not to present men and women with new and interesting ideas. It is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths. And when men and women are confused about what they believe, then you will find that their behavior also goes along with it. And the antidote to that, then, is an understanding of the Scriptures which pierces the darkness.
Now, having said all that as the key that opens the doorway into the book, let's come back and just work through the opening couple of verses. Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. A servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.
He emphasizes relationship, you will notice, before rank. This is the Simon Peter that we all know of, I can do it even if everyone else goes away. The Simon Peter of know, I never heard of him, I don't know him, I wasn't with him.
The Simon Peter, who by his very name Simeon, meant shaky, and who by the intervention of the Lord Jesus became Peter, the man of rock. And the point of contact between Peter and his readers, you will note, doesn't lie in a shared concern about the problems and challenges that these individuals face, nor is it to be found in a common opposition to the falsity that he addresses, but it is grounded in a shared faith to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. I want you to notice that little phrase, to those, and then the explanatory clause, who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. Is this a reference here, the righteousness, the right-doing of God, to his impartiality in extending both to the Gentile as well as to the Jew the opportunities of salvation? Or is it a reference to the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Well, some of you are saying, frankly, I don't know, and that last one that you mentioned, I don't even know what it is. What do you mean, the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ? Well, turn as a cross-reference to 2 Corinthians 5 for just a moment, and let me try and explain this so that none of us are stuck when next the question arises. The New Testament addresses the way in which man and God are brought together in a number of words that are often regarded as too hard to be considered and therefore set aside.
But they're not that difficult. They may be a little unusual, but they're all perfectly understandable, and we need to know what they mean. Paul uses a whole variety of them. For example, he speaks in terms of justification, where he uses the language of the law court. He speaks of propitiation, where he uses the language of the temple sacrifice. He speaks also of redemption, where he uses the language of the slave market. And here in 2 Corinthians 5, he speaks in terms of reconciliation.
Now, you can read this all the way through, but from verse 16 he says, From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. And as he goes on to speak concerning these things, he issues this great exhortation in the second half of verse 20, We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. We implore you to be reconciled to God. Now, why would men and women need to be reconciled to God? Answer, because they are alienated by nature from God. Why is it that men and women feel an experience of alienation, whether it is social or material or personal or psychological?
The answer is, these elements are all fruit of the great alienation which men and women know, namely, that God is holy and other than us, and we, because of our sins, are separated from him. There is a great gulf that is between us. How, then, are we ever to bridge that gap?
Well, the answer is, we can't. So unless God has provided a means of reconciliation, then there is no possibility of it coming from our side across. What, then, are the marks of an alienated life? Well, in verse 12 of 2 Corinthians 5, those who are alienated from God commend themselves. If you talk to them about why they think God would accept them, they say things like, Well, I think I'm as good a person as the next. They say things like, Well, I'm sure that God is pleased with some of the things that I've been doing.
I don't see that I'm as bad as Mr. So-and-so, who was in the newspaper the other day, or as bad as my neighbor up the street, if you'd heard of some of the things she did. And that attempt to protest the individual's desire to save face, to take pride in face, is an indication of their alienation. In verse 15, they live for themselves. A man or a woman who is alienated from God has their own personal agenda. And their regard for the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 16, is worldly. They look at Jesus, and they do not see him as a Savior and as a Lord and as a friend. They may see him as a great moral teacher. They may see him as a religious figure. They may see him as a guru. They may see him of a number of things. Why do they view Christ in that way? Why do they have such an opinion of themselves?
This may be a description of you this evening. Why are you this way? The answer, says the Bible, is that by our natures, we are alienated from God. And the call of the gospel is to be reconciled to him.
Now, how has he made provision for such a reconciliation? Now, in verse 21, the answer is clear. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
If you go back up to verse 19, a phrase that I've pointed out to you before, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. Notice the phrase, not counting men's sins—two crucial words—against them. It doesn't say, not counting men's sins, as if somehow or another God was regarding sin as a casual thing and as something that was of marginal importance. No, he wasn't counting their sins against them.
Well, then, against whom did he count them? For sin had to be dealt with, sin had to be punished, a price had to be paid—hence the picture of redemption in the slave, the slave had to be redeemed—hence the picture of justification in the law court, the guilty had to be acquitted—hence the picture of propitiation, the hands of the priest were laid on the scapegoat that was driven out into the wilderness, the one that was the sin-bearer was driven out. And in all of those pictures, it is pointed to the fact that God did not count sins against us but instead counted them to the record of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the call to reconciliation is a call to experience a great exchange. And this, my friends, is the essence of the gospel. And the idea that is prevalent at the moment that all of the great religions of the world agree on the central issues and the disagreement is on peripheral things just is not true.
The great disagreements are at the very heart of the matter. And here is the great wonder of the gospel. And the experience of it, of being reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, changes everything. So verse 16, from now on, the reconciled person regards no one from a worldly point of view. They see them as sheep without a shepherd. Not only do they view other people differently, they view themselves differently.
They're no longer stuck on themselves. They realize it is a great mystery, that God would love them. And their view of Jesus is altogether different. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Now, all of this, my friends, is wrapped up in this phrase, Through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, we have received a faith on account of God making Jesus to be sin for me and making me the beneficiary of his righteousness. And in the understanding of that, and in the staking of our lives upon that, is the discovery of this precious faith. Can I ask you tonight, is that a faith you know?
There is no more important question for us to wrestle with as we begin a new year. Have you discovered the precious faith that Peter speaks about in the Bible? You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. As we just heard from Alistair, our standing before God is not based on our performance. It's based on the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. If you'd like to know more about God's plan for salvation, take just a few minutes and watch a couple of brief videos. You'll find them on our website, truthforlife.org slash learn more.
Now, as we begin a new year, you've probably spent some time thinking about goals or maybe making new year's resolutions for 2023. And maybe you've thought about spending time in God's word as one of those resolutions. If your spiritual disciplines have been a bit lacking in years past, let me encourage you to request a copy of a book we're recommending titled Habits of Grace, Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. This is a book that is perfect for those who are trying to restart the practice of daily Bible reading and growing in your relationship with Jesus. As you read the book Habits of Grace, you'll learn how to incorporate regular Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, even things like fasting into your routine.
So get started right away. Get a copy of the book Habits of Grace today. You can request it when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can give online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Our offices are closed today because of the new year's holiday. We will return tomorrow.
I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for beginning 2023 with us. Once we've come to know that Christ is our Savior, what then? How do we maintain our faith while living in a crazy world? That's our focus tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-02 13:33:07 / 2023-01-02 13:41:55 / 9