Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Faithful People: Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending November 22, 2009

Purpose: To grasp that our participation in the divine nature enables us to live godly lives.

Scripture Text: 2 Peter 1:3-15 (NRSV)

2 peter 1:3-15
(3)His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (4)Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. (5)For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, (6)and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, (7)and godliness with, and mutual affection with love. (8)For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(9)For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. (10)Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. (11)For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

(12) Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. (13)I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, (14) since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (15)And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

My thoughts on this particular passage may not express the same thoughts as those contained in the Adult Commentary for the UMC. I had trouble with the commentary as presented in the denominational teachers guide. The first was the authorship of this epistle; they imply that Peter was not the writer and would rather have us believe an individual that hijacked Peter's identity in the late 2nd century is really the writer. This is a modern belief because of writing style, rather than accept the fact Peter may have written several letters to the churches of Asia Minor, and this writing may have been penned by someone other than Silas/Silvanus that was the scribe of the first letter by Peter. Certainly if the writer was not Peter he was guilty of claiming to be Peter and to have witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus (v-18). I am amazed sometimes that those that are 2000 years from the event think they know more that those that argued for the canonization 1700 years ago. I am willing to step out in faith and accept Peter as the author and also accept it was a different scribe, which did the actual writing.

The reason for a second letter going out to the churches was Peter, as well as Paul and possibly John, was distressed that the church was deviating from the teachings of Jesus as witnessed by the true Apostles and starting to follow off chutes of Jesus and the Apostles original teachings. Peter attempts to bring them back to the original teachings of Paul and the other Apostles. From the text we can see that both Peter and Paul's time was growing short, it was obvious now that Christ would not return within their lifetime and they wanted those that they had witnessed to, to understand the importance of living a moral and good life.

To me this passage is about the divine power or Holy Spirit that has given us everything we need to live a successful Christian life. Part of that is our ability to be good, and to live a holy life. We have within us, by the divine power that is alive in us because of our faith in everything that we have heard and experienced, the power to overcome the corruptness and worldly lust that is all around us. It is our responsibility to respond to the love that God has shown to us, to live a holy and good life knowing it is not our own goodness or holiness that sets us apart for God, but rather our obedience to His call on our life.

Peter lists seven virtues that a person with the divine power in their life will exhibit:
  • FAITH, the basis for belief in His promises;
  • GOODNESS, or moral excellence, always our goal;
  • KNOWLEDGE, not book smarts, but acknowledging God's gift of His Son;
  • SELF-CONTROL, choosing how we handle life's temptations;
  • ENDURANCE, putting our trust in God with knowledge that He is faithful for the long haul;
  • GODLINESS, giving God the honor and glory he deserves by trying to emulate His goodness;
  • MUTUAL AFFECTION, loving one another and respecting one another.

If we allow these seven virtues to work within us we will have productive and fruitful lives, and if we lack any of these virtues we are nearsighted and blind to all that God has done for us, including forgiving our past sins and transgressions.

In verse 10 Peter seems to be encouraging those that have made this commitment to be baptized, confirming the call of Christ on their lives. In the first century church there was no infant baptism, only a believer’s baptism.

Peter closes this portion by sharing that his death may be near, just as Jesus had told him. He also makes a reference that provides some friction between two beliefs, one that the soul is housed within the body (or visa versa) and while the body stays on earth the soul goes on to be with the Lord. Immortality of the soul was a common belief amongst the Greeks. The Jewish tradition teaches a second belief, that the soul and body are intertwined and one can not exist without the other, hence the importance of the resurrection. In our own beliefs, we recite the creeds that state we believe in the resurrection of the body, but many of us really believe in the eternal soul without the body, or that the two will be joined together again after Christ returns to claim and unite both body and soul.

Is your belief soul and body separate? Or is it that the soul remains with the body until the resurrection of the dead?

Peter is trying his best to make certain they do not forget his teachings, and will remember what he has taught them along with the other Apostles, and not listen to these other teachings that are coming from what some call the sub-apostles or a generation removed from those that walked and talked to Christ while He was on this earth.

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