See our "How to Interpret Scripture" lesson index plus extra resources on our 2020 Second Quarter Index
Lesson 9 May 20-26
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Pet. 1:1-15, Eph. 2:8, Rom. 5:3-5, Heb. 10:38, Rom. 6:11, 1 Cor. 15:12-57.
Memory Text: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV).
One of the astonishing things about the New Testament is how much truth can be “crammed” into a very limited amount of space. Take this week’s lesson, which covers
2 Peter 1:1-14. In these 14 verses, Peter teaches us about righteousness by faith. He then gets into what God’s power can do in the lives of those who have given themselves to Jesus. He talks about the amazing truth that we can become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and that we can be free from the corruption and lust of the world.
In fact, we get not only a kind of catalog of Christian virtues, but Peter presents them in a specific order. One follows another, which follows another, and so forth until they climax into the most important one of all.
He also writes about the reality of what it means to be in Christ and to be “cleansed” (2 Pet. 1:9, NIV) from our old sins, and then even brings in the idea of assurance of salvation, the promise of eternal life in “the everlasting kingdom” (2 Pet. 1:11) of the Lord.
And finally, we even get a little discourse on the crucial topic of the state of the dead. What a lot of rich and deep truth in just 14 verses!
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 27.
Sunday May 21
Read 2 Peter 1:1-4. What does Peter say that we have been given in Jesus Christ? That is, how is the reality of grace seen here?
Peter begins this letter by saying that it is addressed to those who “have obtained like precious faith with us” (2 Pet. 1:1, KJV); or “a faith of equal standing with ours” (RSV). The word translated as “precious” means “of equal value,” or “of equal privilege.” He says that they have “obtained” this precious faith; not that they earned it or deserved it, but that they have received it, a gift from God. Or, as Paul has written: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8, NKJV). It’s precious because “without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6). It’s precious because by this faith we lay hold of many wonderful promises.
Peter emphasizes that the “divine power” of Jesus has given to us everything that concerns life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Only through the power of God do we even exist, and only through His power can we attain holiness. And this divine power is given us “through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3, NKJV; see also John 17:3).
We are called to love God, but how can we love a God we don’t know? We come to know God through Jesus, through the Written Word, through the created world, and through the experience of living a life of faith and obedience. We know God and the reality of God as we experience what He does in our lives, a knowledge that will change us. And we come to know Him through the reality of the grace that He bestows upon us.
Peter then says something even more incredible: that we have also been given “great and precious promises,” which include becoming partakers of the “divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Humanity was originally created in the image of God; that image has been greatly defaced and degraded. When we become born again, we have a new life in Jesus, who works to restore His divine image in us. But we must flee the world’s corruption and lusts if we want this change to occur.
What would your life be like if you were devoid of faith? How does this answer help us to understand why the gift of faith is indeed precious?
Monday May 22
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:3, 4; and Galatians 5:22, 23. What similar theme appears in these texts?
It was common among philosophers in the ancient world to list virtues. Such lists are often called a “catalogue of virtues,” and there are several examples in the New Testament (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:3, 4; Gal. 5:22, 23). It was highly likely that Peter’s readers were familiar with such lists, although there are interesting differences between what a philosopher might list and what Peter lists. Note that Peter has arranged these deliberately in a sequence, so that each virtue builds on the previous virtue, until it reaches a climax in love!
Each of the virtues Peter uses has significant meaning:
Before Peter begins the list of virtues, he says that we should “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5, NET) to attain these virtues. What does he mean by that? What part does human effort play in our desire to live godly, faithful lives?
Tuesday May 23
After giving us the list of what we should diligently seek for as Christians, Peter then declares what the result will be.
Read 2 Peter 1:8-11. What is the link between what has already been done for a Christian and how a Christian should be living?
Peter urges his readers to live according to the new reality that is true for them in Jesus. The characteristics of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love “are yours and abound” (2 Pet. 1:8, NKJV).
The problem is that not all Christians live according to this new reality. Some are ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:8). Such people have forgotten that they were cleansed from “old sins” (2 Pet. 1:9, NKJV). So, says Peter, Christians should live out the new reality that is true for them in Jesus. In Christ, they have received forgiveness, cleansing, and the right to partake in the divine nature. Therefore they must “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). There’s no excuse for living as they had done before, no excuse for being “barren” or “unfruitful” Christians.
“We hear a great deal about faith, but we need to hear a great deal more about works. Many are deceiving their own souls by living an easy-going, accommodating, crossless religion.” - Ellen G. White, Faith and Works, p. 50.
Read Romans 6:11. What does Paul say here that reflects what Peter wrote in the texts for today?
In a sense, both Peter and Paul say, “Be what you are.” And we are new creatures in Christ, cleansed from sin, and partakers of the divine nature. That’s why we can live the kind of life that we are called to. We are supposed to be “like Christ,” which is what “Christian” means.
How “like Christ” are you? In what areas can you do better?
Wednesday May 24
“Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” (2 Pet. 1:13, 14, NKJV).
In 1956, Oscar Cullmann wrote a short study called Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?: The Witness of the New Testament. He argued that the concept of the resurrection is quite incompatible with the concept of the immortal soul. Furthermore, he said that the New Testament lies squarely on the side of the resurrection of the dead.
“No other publication of mine,” he later wrote, “has provoked such enthusiasm or such violent hostility.”
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-57. What does Paul imply happens in death?
A study of what the New Testament says about death and resurrection has convinced most New Testament scholars that Cullman was correct. The New Testament indeed assumes the concept of resurrection, not the concept of an immortal soul that survives the death of the body. For example, in
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Paul urges those who have lost loved ones to death to be comforted with the knowledge that when Jesus returns again, He will raise the dead. In
1 Corinthians 15:12-57, Paul gives an extended description of resurrection. He begins by pointing out that Christian faith is based on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised, then any faith in Him is futile. But, says Paul, Christ has indeed risen from the dead, as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. And Christ’s resurrection from the dead makes it possible for all those in Him to rise from the dead, as well.
Paul talks about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. He contrasts the new bodies we will receive in the resurrection with our present bodies. What we have now will die; what we will have in the resurrection never will.
In summary, when the New Testament talks about death, it does so in terms of resurrection, not immortality of the soul. This is important to know as a background to reading 2 Peter 1:12-14.
Thursday May 25
Read 2 Peter 1:12-15. What does Peter mean when he suggests that he is soon to put off his tent/body?
Second Peter 1:12-14 reveals the occasion of the letter. Peter thinks he is about to die, and the letter contains his last message or testament.
That Peter expects to die soon is revealed by the phraseology, “as long as I am in this tabernacle. . . . Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle,” which is found in 2 Peter 1:13, 14. He likens the body to a tent (tabernacle), which Peter will put off as he dies. In fact, it is so clear that Peter means his body when he refers to putting off his tent that modern translators tend to translate these phrases as “as long as I am in this body . . . since I know that my death will come soon” (2 Pet. 1:13, 14 NRSV). Nothing in Peter’s language suggests that when Peter “puts off” his tent or body, his soul will survive as a separate entity.
Read 2 Peter 1:12-15 again. How does Peter appear to deal with the reality of his impending death, and what does that attitude teach us about faith?
Second Peter 1:12-15 gives added solemnity to Peter’s words. He writes this in the knowledge that his life will soon come to an end. He knows this because, as he said, the “Lord Jesus showed me.” Yet there seems to be no fear, no worry, no foreboding. His emphasis, instead, is on the well-being of those whom he is leaving behind. He wants them to be firm in the “present truth,” and-as long as he is alive-he is going to admonish them to be faithful.
We can see here the reality and depth of Peter’s experience with the Lord. Yes, he’s going to die soon, and it will not be a pleasant death, either (see John 21:18; Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 537, 538), but his unselfish concern is about the benefit of others. Truly, Peter was a man living out the faith that he taught.
How does our faith help us deal with the terrible reality of death? How can we learn to cling to the wonderful hope we have, even in the face of death, because of what Jesus has done for us?
Friday May 26
Further Thought: As we saw, Peter knew that he was soon to die. And he knew (and for a long time, too), how he was going to die. That’s because Jesus Himself had told him. “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish’” (John 21:18, NKJV).
What was his end?
“Peter, as a Jew and a foreigner, was condemned to be scourged and crucified. In prospect of this fearful death, the apostle remembered his great sin in denying Jesus in the hour of His trial. Once so unready to acknowledge the cross, he now counted it a joy to yield up his life for the gospel, feeling only that, for him who had denied his Lord, to die in the same manner as his Master died was too great an honor. Peter had sincerely repented of that sin and had been forgiven by Christ, as is shown by the high commission given him to feed the sheep and lambs of the flock. But he could never forgive himself. Not even the thought of the agonies of the last terrible scene could lessen the bitterness of his sorrow and repentance. As a last favor he entreated his executioners that he might be nailed to the cross with his head downward. The request was granted, and in this manner died the great apostle Peter.” - Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 537, 538. And yet, even with this prospect before him, Peter’s concern was for the spiritual well-being of the flock.
I was packed and ready to leave for the military. My father put his hand on my shoulder and handed me a Bible to take along.
“I’ll be faithful to God,” I promised my father. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was determined to try.
I joined the other recruits, and we started marching toward the basic training camp. The commander made the march as difficult as possible. We had to cross a river on our hands and knees, and when it became very deep, we had to swim with our heavy packs on.
When we crawled out on the other side our bags were soaking wet, but we were given no chance to rest or dry out. We continued marching at a rapid pace. As soon as we arrived at the camp, we were given other exercises to do. It was late at night before we had time to unpack our wet bags.
Pulling out my clothes and other belongings, I wrung river water out of each item and laid it out to dry. Then my eyes fell on the Bible from my father. I groaned, sure it would be ruined from the water. But as I touched it, it felt dry. Surprised, I pulled it out of the bag. It was dry. Everything in my bag was soaked with dirty water-except for the Bible. It was clean and dry. I was reminded that God was with me.
During the rigors of basic training, however, I sometimes forgot the beautiful evidence of God’s presence. I wanted to keep the Sabbath, but it was difficult. I prayed that God would help me find a way.
Then I learned that the military was looking for soldiers to teach military children. I immediately signed up. Thankfully, I was chosen to teach, so I didn’t have to work on Sabbath.
While in the military, I often shared my faith. My roommate often talked to me about the Bible; he said he saw something different in me. He accepted my invitation to attend some evangelistic meetings and later gave his life to Jesus.
Another soldier was a Muslim; his father didn’t want him to become a Christian. But he had attended Adventist schools and was ready to take a stand for Christ. We talked a lot about God, and eventually he became an Adventist.
I knew that God was with me. He had kept my Bible dry on the first day of training, and He had made it possible for me to keep the Sabbath and lead others to Him, even while serving in the military.
Martin Bengono is from the country of Cameroon.
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