devotion 11-1-14

Good Morning!Happy "All Saints Day", although we will officially celebrate on Sunday.
Also, don’t forget – time changes tonight – turn your clocks back one hour and don’t arrive an hour early for church! But if you do, join us for Sunday School in room 2 (at 8:45)!

2 Peter 3:14 – 18

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, 16speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. 18But 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.*

But this author does not leave it there – at the promise of a new heaven and a new earth! He returns then to his warnings to the letter’s audience. They are to wait for this, but while waiting they are to strive, to work toward, being at peace in their faith in Christ. It is a bit difficult for me to put together “striving” and “being at peace”. The key to being at peace in one’s heart is in trusting God, rather than striving. But the author is speaking here of living holy lives, in contrast to the false teachers who appear to have adopted a libertine belief (there were those at the time who believed that it made no difference what one did after coming to belief in Christ, that one was freed from all law – and they used certain passages from Paul’s letters to uphold that; there were others (Gnostics) who believed the soul and body to be separate – the faith allowed their souls to be saved while what their bodies did was immaterial). The believers to whom the author writes should, by contrast, strive to live holy lives. And unlike the mockers, they should see that God’s delay of the end times represents salvation for more of God’s people.

The author here speaks of Paul’s letters, which came to be widely circulated in the churches early in the second century. This is one of the clues that leads scholars to think this letter was written after Peter’s death, perhaps by a follower of Peter. The reference to Paul as “Our beloved brother” adds further credence to his authority – he is saying he and Paul are preaching the same things. But – a big “but”- there are those who misunderstand Paul’s writing and twist it to suit their agendas. Apparently, the “false teachers”, who are “ignorant and unstable”, are using Paul’s letters to make their points – the letter writer says they are twisting and abusing the texts, as they do “other scriptures”. This phrase takes the letter later still – the letters of Paul are not only circulating among the churches, they have come to be considered scripture, something that happened later in the second century. That would make the “false teachers” more likely to be those purporting a “Gnostic” approach, and would actually make more sense with what the author is saying.

The readers should not be carried away with this “lawlessness”, but have been warned – the writer is reiterating the purpose of the letter – and should, therefore, continue in the faith. They should grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whenever we think we know everything, we are in danger of falling into worshiping self instead of God. Such cockiness is a form of self-idolatry. We must have a level of humility, admitting we can still learn; we all continue to grow in grace or we wither on the vine. Finally, the author offers a doxology – To Christ be the glory! Amen.

If you noticed the asterisk after “Amen”, it is there to say that some of the ancient texts include this word and some do not. We tend to think of there being an original copy of the Bible somewhere that people copied, and to which we can return. There is not. what we have are various hand written copies that circulated from different churches or were kept in different libraries – copies of copies. When translators work today, they work from the oldest and most reliable texts available. Even those do not always agree. Something like an “Amen” is something that a copyist could have added, not something likely to have been omitted. Thus, the disagreement here, if there were equal numbers of texts with and without, would have resulted in its being omitted. On the other hand, if there was only one or two where it is omitted and all the others include it, then translators would likely have included it, as indeed they have!

A final word about 2 Peter, the “New Interpreter’s Study Bible” introduces the book with these words, “The formal style and stiff polemical tone of this brief book help to rank it among the least read of the biblical canon.” Now we have read the entire book and I frankly agree with the authors of the study Bible. But I did find some useful material in the third chapter, in what we reviewed yesterday and today. We will search for a more positive text for our next study!!

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