In this second message, Peter made specific reference to grace and knowledge; in 3:18, Peter made clear his purpose to encourage the believers to mature in their understanding and practice of the grace of God in Christ.
They needed to “know” Christ better, particularly in the midst of the false teaching and teachers which threatened their growth in the Lord Jesus. This letter is particularly important for believers then and today; it was written from the ‘death bed’ of the aged Apostle Peter (1:14-15) – Peter was seeking to remind the believers of the truth in their faith – he referred to the Old Testament, the historical events, his own personal witness of the transfiguration and he sought to counter the philosophical teaching of the false teachers by using phrases and terms to put to nought their claims to ‘true knowledge’, their championing of ‘freedom’ from fear by discounting the facts of the second coming of Christ and impending judgement.
Peter’s strong ‘condemnation’ of false teaching and teachers reminds believers of the seriousness of deviating from the faith in theology or morals. Notice that often wrong teaching and theology lead to immoral lifestyle and loose living.
Peter also enhances the understanding of eschatology by elaborating on the ‘day of the Lord’, making it clear that this is definitely going to take place.
He also highlighted the importance of memory in the Christian life – he sought to stimulate believers to wholesome thinking, and not to forget the teaching they have already received and to stray away from the truth to novelty (propagated by teachers with no Scriptural basis) which would end up tn negative consequences for their faith in Christ.
The false teaching was probably related to the teaching of Epicureanism, one of the more influential schools of thought in the Greco-Roman world, taking third place to Platonism and Stoicism. This teaching highlighted “undisturbedness” as the highest good. To this school of thought, the gods cannot be disturbed over what human beings do; the gods are therefore free from the feelings of anger and the desire for vengeance. Therefore people should be free from the tyranny of fear (2 Peter 2:19) and hence implying freedom from the fear of judgement from any authority. Unfortunately, the side effect of this teaching was a tendency to indulge in appetites and desires; after all, there is no consequence or judgement for our behaviour.
The teachers of this school of thought mocked at the conviction that Christ will return to judge the world and they were sceptical of even the idea of judgement. They pointed out that many years had passed without any sign of the second coming of Christ.
In the opening of the letter, Peter exhorted the believers by pointing out God’s gifts and promises to His people. Christians ought to have absolute confidence that Jesus will come again. Peter himself with other apostles have already seen the coming Christ in all His glory in the transfiguration – he was a witness himself! The prophets – utterly reliable – because the Holy Spirit speaks through them – confirm the same truth. Peter not only condemned the false prophets but he also confirmed their fate in the end, using a series of examples from the Old Testament (verses 4,5,6,7,9 of chapter 2). The historical examples written in the Old Testament clearly reveal that God does judge the wicked and the false prophets. The arrogance and sensuality of the false teachers would not escape the judgement and wrath of God!
Regarding the ‘day of the Lord’, Peter seems to be clear that this world is destined to be ‘destroyed’ by fire and to be replaced by “new heavens and a new earth”. The promise of “new heavens and a new earth” comes from Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 and this image is taken up also in Revelation 21:1. The focus on the physical world in verses 5-7 of Chapter 3 seems deliberately chosen to refer to the physical universe.
Does Peter think that the new will replace the old? or that the old will be transformed into the new? Probably there is continuity as well as discontinuity in the shift from the present heavens and earth to the new heavens and earth, given the other biblical texts on this subject, but we need not resolve this issue with certainty at this juncture.
As to the mocking of the false teachers regarding no ‘appearance’ of the second coming of Christ, Peter pointed out the difference between the divine and human experience of time. If God seems to delay, it is only because our time is so short but God’s time is without end. God is in fact reserving the penalties for the future and awaits the lapse of time out of gentleness and magnanimity. The delay of final judgement, then, is a necessary outworking of the character of the God who is “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Ex. 34:6-7).
Mindful of Christ’s death for us and His coming again as Lord and judge, a life of progress in virtue, justice and holiness is the most natural outgrowth and response in our lives as believers (1: 5-9). Christian leaders must help believers to understand the connection between beliefs and the choices and ambitions that drive real life so that they may be brought to the point of integration and wholeness where their walk reflects, rather than contradicts, the convictions they embrace.
Peter reminded Christians of the nature of Christian freedom. Freedom from the Law is not freedom for self-indulgence; it is a freedom for a deeper level of self-giving and commitment to holiness from the heart than the Law could empower on its own. Christ did not die to make room in our lives for greed, pride or sexual lust; wherever the gospel is used to make room for these things, teachers and the followers are deceiving themselves, forging again the chains of bondage to the passions of the flesh (2:2-3).
Notice the use of the term “make every effort” in (1:5,10; 1:15; 3:14). Some translations state: “be diligent” or “be all the more diligent”. In 1:10, Peter exhorted the believers to be diligent to make their calling and election sure by practicing the qualities that lead to godliness, holiness, true knowledge, self-control and becoming partakers of the divine nature. Some would put it as “grace-driven effort and diligence”; however you put it, it implies working hard and putting great effort, in dependence on God’s Spirit, to grow into the image of Christ Jesus. Believers cannot afford to be laid-back, lazy and indolent in the pursuit of godliness; we do not drift into holiness and godliness – we need to work hard at it with reverential fear of God such that we are worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Remember that Apostle Peter, at the end of his pilgrimage on earth, considered it an utmost priority to remind believers of the need to ‘work out our salvation’ and not to be led astray by false teachings and novelty but to remember that God’s revelation through HIs prophets, teachers and Scripture are completely reliable and true. Jesus would definitely come again as Lord and Judge with a cosmic upheaval and transformation of the universe – woe to those who reject this, and woe to so-called believers who presumptuously used the name of God in vain and caused others to stumble by their lives of immorality, sensuality, arrogance and deception!