Week of May 26: Live in faithfulness to God as we await His return
By Hal Brady
Lesson for the week of May 26
Scripture: II Peter 3:1-15a
The story goes that in 1903 a Michigan banker convinced his client not to invest in Henry Ford’s company because, as he put it, “the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty.” It wasn’t too many years before the automobile became the norm for worldwide transportation.
As we know, it can be difficult for any of us to think “outside of the box.” We can easily become set in our ways of thinking and taking action. Nothing ever changes; consequently, we begin to lose hope in any greater possibility or nobler future.
Something like this is happening in today’s scripture lesson. The writer of II Peter (whether Peter or someone else) is addressing communities for whom the Second Coming of Christ has become problematic and stressful.
Now, the writer of II Peter is primarily concerned with the Second Coming of Christ, which is related to the dissolution of the earth and everything that is done upon it (3:10). Everything the writer of II Peter admonishes us in this lesson is derived from this inevitable end, which the prophets predicted and the apostles commanded (3:2). The writer feels so strongly about this that he urges his readers to remember the deep-rooted traditions upon which their faith is built and not to ignore the matter (3:8).
The Second Coming of Christ, however, was and is a difficult doctrine for many people, even people of faith. For some, it is a theological curiosity, a kind of threat that is wielded by “fire and brimstone” evangelists, and they want nothing to do with it. Some scoff at the Second Coming, seeing that history has been running along for quite some time with no sign of it. Some have been turned off with it by those obsessed with the “rapture” and their “timetables” for God’s coming. Others are confused by the varying interpretations of the “end times.” Others are so caught up in the “scientific mind of things” that there is no room for any interference from beyond the world of inflexible process. Still others have become despaired because it hasn’t happened yet, so they conclude it never will.
At this point, the spotlight shifts back to the writer of II Peter! What does he say in giving answer to these issues or concerns? Basically, the writer offers three arguments that are still relevant today.
First, there was the flood in Noah’s day
People at that time thought that things would continue on and on as usual. They thought history would keep on tracking itself. But, as you are aware, the people of Noah’s day discovered that God was not a disinterested “absentee landlord” who was unengaged with His creation. God acted!
To be sure, nature is faithful and predictable; nevertheless, “effect” sometimes is not the result of “cause.” God acts!
Second, the writer of II Peter focuses on contrast
He reminds us that God’s time and our time are not the same. The writer states, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (3:8). In essence, the writer of II Peter is telling us that we must never confuse time with eternity. God is not under a time limitation. His purposes are not measured by time. As one scholar put it, “The delay on God’s part in the fulfilling of his purposes must not be regarded as unconcern for its fulfillment” (3:9).
Third, the writer of II Peter points out God’s grace and our opportunity
The writer says, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (3:9).
It has been 2,000 years since Jesus came. Might we not have expected that a little more progress would have been made in terms of that kingdom in 2,000 years? But all the time God is patiently waiting and working, waiting and working, waiting and working.
A certain minister said that in his church they didn’t talk about “backsliding” members because as he explained, in his church most of the members didn’t get far enough ahead to slide back! But all the time God is patiently waiting and working.
Why is God waiting? God waits because God loves. God’s patience is rooted in God’s love. Because of God’s loving patience, we continue to have hope and possibility for salvation and renewal.
So how are we, as people of God, to live in the “meantime”—the time between now and the time of the Second Coming of Christ? As with other passages in the Petrine Epistles studied in the past few weeks, the call is to live in faithfulness to God. As one scholar observed, “This faithfulness to God is not simply a faithfulness to what we believe about God but a faithfulness to what we do about those beliefs.
For the writer of II Peter, life and history are not to be taken frivolously. We remember that the writer spoke of “the heavens passing away and the elements (the earth) being dissolved with fire” (3:10, 12). With that description, he is not trying to frighten us to be good but simply to indicate how a Christian should live in an age which expects something both of a glorious—and awful conclusion.
So, the writer of II Peter calls us to live lives of repentance (3:9), holiness and godliness (3:11) and justice (3:13). We are also to strive to live at peace without spot or blemish.
One last concluding thought: while waiting for new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is at home (3:13), the writer of II Peter admonishes us, “But 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” (3:18).
Beloved, therein is our hope. And the church said, “Amen.”
Questions for further reflection:
Ask the class to discuss their own beliefs about Christ’s second coming.
Brainstorm about what the writer of II Peter urges the congregation to do in the meantime.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues his ministry through Hal Brady Ministries (www.halbradyministries.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.