Preaching Series on 2 Peter (3 of 3)

Final in a 3-week Narrative Lectionary preaching series on 2 Peter

Ancient pillars in front of Christian church
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July 16, 2023

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Commentary on 2 Peter 3:1-10, 17-18

Week 3 (July 16, 2023)

Preaching text: 2 Peter 3:1-10, 17-18; accompanying text: Matthew 24:42-44

This passage casts Peter as a contributor to the Christian letter-writing tradition in the same way as Paul (3:1, 15–16). It attests to the rich and active literary tradition of Christian letters and, in turn, creates an opportunity for preachers to narrate the work of Christian communication and literature. What parts of the Christian tradition do Bible readers merely consume, and what factors do we participate in—even extend in our contemporary moments? What is the work of Christian letter writers now? This passage models the importance of locating ourselves as receivers and contributors to our faith tradition.

The passage also names the essentials of the tradition while expressing the unanswered questions of the tradition. The letter places the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles on par. Together, the prophets and apostles are pillars of the tradition to be referenced, remembered, and re-contextualized (3:2). Yet, the letter does not insinuate that these two traditions supply the answers to every mystery of the faith. In particular, the question of the timing of God is left unanswered.

The letter divides the community into those who accept the Second Coming is ahead though they cannot know the specific time, and those who have abandoned the idea that the Coming (Greek: parousia) will occur at all. Readers encounter the letter’s position—it opposes any Christian teaching that questions the timing and viability of Jesus’ return. That opposing view—which it casts more as a question than an assertion—the letter stigmatizes as the actions of scoffers, ignorant, unstable, and lawless. In 2 Peter 3:4, the question is rehearsed, “Where is the promise of his coming?” It is unlikely that in the historical Peter’s lifetime, expectations about Jesus’ return would wane so much as to create different opinions within the newly constituted movement and gospel tradition (cf. Matt. 24:3, 27, 37–39).