Agonizomai: 2 Peter 3:1-3 - Ground of Hope

Sunday, December 11, 2005

2 Peter 3:1-3 - Ground of Hope
1-3 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

In this final chapter Peter moves from warnings about false teachers to the certainty of the judgement of the wicked upon the Lord’s return. All of the Apostles had echoed the warnings of the prophets and of their Master that evil men would wax worse and worse - that the wickedness of humanity would be judged. {Ps 50:1-4 Isa 13:10-13,24:19-23 Mic 1:4 Mal 4:1-2}

For the believer, the return of Jesus Christ is a blessed hope. In every generation, in the hearts of all true believers lies the hope that they might be transformed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet - and not see death. We watch and wait for it. No one knows the day nor the hour - yet all anticipate it, as they are both commanded and encouraged to do.

In his first letter, Peter had addressed the very present problem of persecution. In this He addresses the problems of false teaching, and the dangers of wearying in that watching and waiting for the Lord. The church was besieged from without and from within. Each peril had its own unique menace. Combined, they must at times have threatened to overwhelm the people. But Christians have a sure and certain hope both of the resurrection and of the return of the Lord, and the shepherds were quick to remind them that they were but sojourners upon the earth and citizens of heaven.

Men could threaten them with beatings and imprisonment and death; they could seduce and beguile with subtle and malicious heresies; and we see here that they could scoff and jeer and belittle and make fun of the Way. They did this with the Lord of Glory even as He hung upon the cross, willingly impaled and held there by the Father for the sins of His people. All the while He was lovingly bleeding and panting in agony, restraining His omnipotence, veiling His rightful majesty and deference - as He suffered, the very same people that only a day before had hailed him as king now jeered and said, "He saved others - Himself He cannot save." Some taunted Him to come down from the cross, if indeed He was really the Son of God. How easy that would have been for Him. The cross was of His creation, literally historically and symbolically. Yet it was His purpose from eternity to hang there to the very end. It was the will of the Father that He did so - and He and the Father were one. It was what He came to do, and He would not be moved until that eternal cry escaped His lips, "It is finished!" Paid in full.

Now, if the Lord of glory suffered such shame, such ignominy, such cruel taunting - despising it for the joy that lay before Him - then we can understand Peter’s desire to encourage those saints who would be belittled for their faith. Sometimes it is easier for us to hurt physically than to have our proud natures scorned. But thanks be to Jesus Christ this scorn is now the very salve of our souls. We are proud. We are haughty. We are self-glorying in our old natures - but by the grace of God because of Jesus Christ, and the power of His resurrection, our old nature is pummeled and constrained and subdued by suffering through faith in Christ. When we endure, when we abide in His word regardless of the circumstances, when we are railed against and, by the grace of God do not rail back, then Satan’s end is demonstrated for the world and for all the unseen angels to see. And it is then that we see the power of God manifested in us. He changes us, He upholds us, He sanctifies us in the midst of it all - to the praise of His glorious grace forevermore.

These are the last days. The last days began when Jesus ascended into heaven and they have continued for almost 2,000 years since. There were scoffers in Christ’s day, there were scoffers in Peter’s day, there were scoffers in our Grandfathers’ and fathers’ day - and there are scoffers in our day, too. Holy lives, lived in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit serve only to inflame and to enrage the hearts of evil men. The holiness of Christ, though reflected often only too dimly in our own flesh, remains a light to remind sinful men of their true condition before God. They hate God and so, when He displays His life and righteousness in us, men will hate us also, for His sake. {Joh 15:20} But some will be convicted by the light. Some will be brought to shame and to repentance. Some will hear the call of the Saviour from within His people and will be brought into the kingdom.

Meanwhile, the comfort for the saints is that, while they endure all of this rejection and humiliation and insult and taunting, they do so loving their very tormentors, because they know that they themselves were just like them, and would still be, apart from God’s free gift of their salvation in Christ. Abiding in the sure and certain hope that is in Christ, knowing that He has loved them with an everlasting love from eternity past, and will love them with that same love in eternity present and eternity to come - firmly convinced of His love, the saints are able to endure all things, and to love the unlovely - just as their Lord did. He does in and through them, what He has already done for them.

So scoffers will come. And the true saints will endure. They will endure, loving their enemies to the end, as Christ did. They will endure, knowing also that God knows all things. He knows what they have suffered in His Name. He knows also how to requite the wicked. And He will one day do so as sure as the sun rising.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans


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