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WIERSBE BIBLE STUDY SERIES: 2 PETER, 2 & 3 JOHN, JUDE
Beware of the Religious Imposters
By Warren W. Wiersbe
David C. CookCopyright © 2013 Warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
(2 PETER 1)
Before you begin ...
Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.
Read 2 Peter 1. This lesson references chapters 1, "Knowing and Growing," and 2, "Wake Up and Remember!" in Be Alert. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.
From the Commentary
The Christian life begins with faith. Peter called it "like precious faith." It means that our standing with the Lord today is the same as that of the apostles centuries ago. They had no special advantage over us simply because they were privileged to walk with Christ, see Him with their own eyes, and share in His miracles. It is not necessary to see the Lord with our human eyes in order to love Him, trust Him, and share His glory (1 Peter 1:8).
From the very outset of his letter, Peter affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ. "God" and "our Saviour" are not two different persons; they describe one person, Jesus Christ. Paul used a similar expression in Titus 2:10 and 3:4. Peter reminded his readers that Jesus Christ is the Savior by repeating this exalted title in 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18. A savior is "one who brings salvation," and the word salvation was familiar to the people of that day. In their vocabulary, it meant "deliverance from trouble," particularly "deliverance from the enemy." It also carried the idea of "health and safety." A physician was looked on as a savior because he helped deliver the body from pain and limitations. A victorious general was a savior because he delivered the people from defeat. Even a wise official was a savior because he kept the nation in order and delivered it from confusion and decay.
—Be Alert, page 20
1. What are some of the ways we use savior to describe people in society today? Review 2 Peter 1:1–2. What are the unique ways the title savior applies to Jesus? Why is this critical to our faith?
More to Consider: When you are born into the family of God by faith in Christ, you are born complete (Col. 2:10). The false teachers claimed that they had a "special doctrine" that would add something to the lives of Peter's readers. Why is the message from these false teachers dangerous? What happens when believers start to think they need more than what God has already given us?
2. Choose one verse or phrase from 2 Peter 1 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.
From the Commentary
God has not only given us all that we need for life and godliness, but He has also given us His Word to enable us to develop this life and godliness. These promises are great because they come from a great God and they lead to a great life. They are precious because their value is beyond calculation. If we lost the Word of God, there would be no way to replace it. Peter must have liked the word precious, for he wrote about the "precious faith" (2 Peter 1:1; cf. 1 Peter 1:7), the "precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4), the "precious blood" (1 Peter 1:19), the precious stone (1 Peter 2:4, 6), and the precious Savior (1 Peter 2:7).
When the sinner believes on Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to impart the life and nature of God within. A baby shares the nature of its parents, and a person born of God shares the divine nature of God. The lost sinner is dead, but the Christian is alive because he shares the divine nature. The lost sinner is decaying because of his corrupt nature, but the Christian can experience a dynamic life of godliness because he has God's divine nature within. Mankind is under the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:21), but the believer shares the freedom and growth that is a part of possessing the divine nature.
—Be Alert, page 22
3. Respond to the following statement: "Nature determines appetite." How does this apply to those who follow Christ? Those who don't? How does nature also determine behavior?
From the Commentary
Where there is life, there must be growth. The new birth is not the end; it is the beginning. God gives His children all that they need to live godly lives, but His children must apply themselves and be diligent to use the "means of grace" He has provided. Spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline. "Work out your own salvation.... For it is God which worketh in you" (Phil. 2:12–13).
Peter listed seven characteristics of the godly life, but we must not think of them as seven beads on a string or even seven stages of development. The word translated "add" really means "to supply generously." In other words, we develop one quality as we exercise another quality.
—Be Alert, page 23
4. Review 2 Peter 1:5–7. What are the seven characteristics of the godly life? How do they work together to produce godliness? Choose two of them and describe how growth in one strengthens the other.
From the Commentary
Christian character is an end in itself, but it is also a means to an end. The more we become like Jesus Christ, the more the Spirit can use us in witness and service. The believer who is not growing is idle ("barren") and unfruitful. His knowledge of Jesus Christ is producing nothing practical in his life. The word translated "idle" also means "ineffective." The people who fail to grow usually fail in everything else!
Some of the most effective Christians I have known are people without dramatic talents and special abilities, or even exciting personalities, yet God has used them in marvelous ways. Why? Because they are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. They have the kind of character and conduct that God can trust with blessing. They are fruitful because they are faithful; they are effective because they are growing in their Christian experience.
—Be Alert, page 27
5. Review 2 Peter 1:8. Why is fruitfulness such an important character quality? How do we become fruitful? What is our divine responsibility with fruitfulness or any other character trait we've been given?
From the Commentary
Nutritionists tell us that diet can certainly affect vision, and this is especially true in the spiritual realm. The unsaved person is in the dark because Satan has blinded his mind (2 Cor. 4:3–4). A person has to be born again before his eyes are opened and he can see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). But after our eyes are opened, it is important that we increase our vision and see all that God wants us to see. The phrase cannot see afar off is the translation of a word that means "shortsighted." It is the picture of somebody closing or squinting his eyes, unable to see at a distance.
There are some Christians who see only their own churches or their own denominations, but who fail to see the greatness of God's family around the world. Some believers see the needs at home but have no vision for a lost world. Someone asked Phillips Brooks what he would do to revive a dead church, and he replied, "I would preach a missionary sermon and take up a collection!" Jesus admonished His disciples, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).
—Be Alert, page 28
6. How are some churches today like the church at Laodicea? (See Rev. 3:17.) How can pride destroy a church? What are some ways to avoid becoming prideful?
From the Commentary
The best defense against false teaching is true living. A church filled with growing Christians, vibrant in their faith, is not likely to fall prey to apostates with their counterfeit Christianity. But this Christian living must be based on the authoritative Word of God. False teachers find it easy to seduce people who do not know their Bible but who are desirous of "experiences" with the Lord. It is a dangerous thing to build on subjective experience alone and ignore objective revelation.
Peter discussed Christian experience in the first half of 2 Peter 1, and in the last half he discussed the revelation we have in the Word of God. His purpose was to show the importance of knowing God's Word and relying on it completely. The Christian who knows what he believes and why he believes it will rarely be seduced by the false teachers and their devious doctrines.
—Be Alert, page 33
7. How does Peter underscore the dependability and durability of God's Word in 2 Peter 1:12–21? How does a firm foundation of faith help believers with discernment? Why is discernment so important to the life of individual Christians? To the success and growth of a church community?
From the Commentary
Peter wanted to impress his readers' minds with the Word of God so that they would never forget it! "I think it meet ... to stir you up by putting you in remembrance" (2 Peter 1:13). The verb stir you up means "to awaken, to arouse." This same word is used to describe a storm on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:18)! Peter knew that our minds have a tendency to get accustomed to truth and then to take it for granted. We forget what we ought to remember, and we remember what we ought to forget!
The readers of this letter knew the truth and were even "established" in it (2 Peter 1:12), but that was no guarantee they would always remember the truth and apply it. One reason the Holy Spirit was given to the church was to remind believers of the lessons already learned (John 14:26). In my own radio ministry, I have received letters from listeners who get upset when I repeat something. In my reply, I often refer them to what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:1: "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." Our Lord often repeated Himself as He taught the people, and He was the Master Teacher.
—Be Alert, pages 34–35
8. Why was it so important for Peter to teach the idea of remembrance to the church? (See 2 Peter 1:12–13, 15.) What happens to a community when they don't give attention to remembering? How are some of today's greatest challenges in the church evidence of this?
More to Consider: If we did not have a dependable written revelation, the church would be at the mercy of men's memories. Fortunately, we can depend on the written Word of God. Read 1 Peter 1:23–25 and 1 Peter 2:2. What do these passages teach us about the roles God's Word plays in our lives? How might our understanding of God be different if we didn't have the Bible to guide us? Would there be a church today? Why or why not?
From the Commentary
What was the significance of the transfiguration? For one thing, it confirmed Peter's testimony about Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:13–16). Peter saw the Son in His glory, and he heard the Father speak from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (2 Peter 1:17). First we put our faith in Christ and confess Him, and then He gives us wonderful confirmation.
The transfiguration also had a special significance for Jesus Christ, who was nearing Calvary. It was the Father's way of strengthening His Son for that terrible ordeal of being the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The law and the prophets (Moses and Elijah) pointed to His ministry, and now He would fulfill those Scriptures. The Father spoke from heaven and assured the Son of His love and approval. The transfiguration was proof that suffering leads to glory when we are in the will of God.
But there is a third message, and it has to do with the promised kingdom. In all three gospels where the account of the transfiguration is recorded, it is introduced with a statement about the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). Jesus promised that, before they died, some of the disciples would see the kingdom of God in power! This took place on the Mount of Transfiguration when our Lord revealed His glory. It was a word of assurance to the disciples, who could not understand our Lord's teaching about the cross. If He were to die, what would happen to the promised kingdom that He had been preaching about all those months?
—Be Alert, page 37
9. How is Peter's inclusion of the transfiguration event (2 Peter 1:17–18) a response to those who were teaching God's kingdom would never come (2 Peter 3:3–4)? Why is his eyewitness testimony important? How might his message be applicable to today's skeptics?
From the Commentary
In some respects, the world is getting better. I thank God for the advances in medicine, transportation, and communication. I can speak to more people in one radio program than the apostles preached to in their entire lifetimes. I can write books that can be spread abroad and even translated into different languages. In areas of scientific achievement, the world has made great progress. But the human heart is still wicked, and all of our improvements in means have not improved our lives. Medical science enables people to live longer, but there is no guarantee they will live better. Modern means of communication enable lies to travel faster! And jet planes enable us to get places faster, but we do not have better places to go!
We should not be surprised that our world is engulfed in spiritual darkness. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord warned that there would be counterfeits who would invade the church with their false doctrines (Matt. 7:13–29). Paul gave a similar warning to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:28–35), and he gave further warnings when he wrote his epistles (Rom. 16:17–20; 2 Cor. 11:1–15; Gal. 1:1–9; Phil. 3:17–21; Col. 2; 1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 3—4). Even John, the great "apostle of love," warned about anti-Christian teachers who would seek to destroy the church (1 John 2:18–29; 4:1–6).
—Be Alert, page 41
10. Review the Scripture passages noted in From the Commentary. What do they tell us about the threat of false teachers? What do they tell us about what the apostles expected in the generations after them? How has this proven true in today's churches?
Take a moment to reflect on all that you've explored thus far in this study of 2 Peter 1. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.
Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don't press for people to speak if they're uncomfortable doing so.
11. Who are the "saviors" in your life—people who have rescued you from risky, dangerous, or questionable circumstances or situations? How does their role in your life help you better understand Jesus' role as Savior?
12. How do you grow in fruitfulness? What is God's job in this process? What actions are necessary on your part?
13. What does remembrance mean to you? How does remembering your past help you live in the present? What are the dangers of looking backward too much? How do you find balance between remembering and moving forward in faith?
14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you'd like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It's better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don't try).
Do you want to take a step that will help you grow in fruitfulness? Be specific. Go back through 2 Peter 1 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.
Real-Life Application Idea: Take a day this week to focus on remembrance. If you have a journal, go through it and recall the circumstances you've experienced. Or go through an old calendar and recall the events of the past year. As you consider each thing, take time to think about how God showed up in each of those situations.
15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence) inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you've noted in the Going Forward section. Be honest about your desires and fears.
Excerpted from WIERSBE BIBLE STUDY SERIES: 2 PETER, 2 & 3 JOHN, JUDE by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 2013 Warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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