Summary: What do Peter and Jude say about Christian character development? We have much to learn from 2 Peter and Jude as Jesus’s disciples. They deal mostly with false teachers and prophets, and we need to know how to recognize them.
In my first post, I described Christian character development in James and 1 Peter. In this post, I will continue to teach on the spiritual development of disciples of Jesus from the letters of 2 Peter and Jude.
Remember those hellfire and brimstone preachers? We are about to run into some teaching resembling it. Second Peter addresses false teachers, prophets, and teaching, and the coming Day of the Lord and God’s judgment. It’s not full of fluffy and happy staff. But people in Peter’s day doubted the Day of the Lord, and God was coming soon to judge the wicked. Peter writes to set these things straight.
Jude was one of Jesus’s brothers and lambastes false teachers and false teaching happening in the early church. He warns against false teaching with Old Testament examples. He calls the true church to persevere in perilous times. Both messages help us today as we see wickedness and false teaching in the church. Since they speak to Today’s Church as much as in the first century, let’s get started.
Characteristics of Our Calling and Election
Peter begins his second letter by telling us to confirm our calling and election (2 Peter 1:3-15). Our calling and election refer to our salvation and what God wants us to do. He has a character chain that begins with supplementing our faith with virtue and ending with brotherly affection and love. These character traits help us grow in Christ and love one another.
We partake in Jesus’s divine nature as His brothers and sisters. We must have these qualities. They keep us from the flesh. If we don’t have them, we are blind and forget who we are. Would we have these qualities, Peter says we’ll never fall. They keep everything in check and focus on our calling. Peter knows his time is short and uses the opening of his letter to remind us of these virtues.
Peter talks about Jesus’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-19). He and his ministry companions did not use cleverly devised myths when they revealed Christ. We cannot follow the ways of this world. We must rely on the power of the Spirit and the truth of the gospel.
Jesus revealed Himself on the Mount of Transfiguration to Peter, James, and John. They saw Jesus in a new light and the Father expressing His approval of Jesus as He did at His baptism. We never forget the moments Jesus reveals His power and might to us. These are moments we cherish. We need to pay attention to the prophetic word of Scripture. Peter expresses the importance of this prophetic word confirmed in our hearts by Jesus, the Morning Star.
False Prophets, Teachers, Prophecies, and Teachings
False prophets and teachers can abuse the prophetic word in the last days and end times. Peter and Jude send warnings about false prophecy and teaching. Peter says that no prophecy comes from our own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21). We speak from the Spirit’s prompting. If we prophesy in ourselves, we become false prophets. The Holy Spirit carries us as we prophesy for Jesus.
He goes into a lengthy section about false prophets and teachers (2 Peter 2:1-22). He warns us that false teachers will rise against the truth of Jesus’s doctrine. They will lead many astray from inside the Church. We must know the truth. We cannot let someone else do our job. As Jesus’s disciples, we must stand firm against false doctrines and teachers.
Peter says God did not spare sinning angels, but punished them. Because God deals with sin, and rescued righteous Lot, He knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and punish the unrighteous until the day of judgment. We recognize false teachers not only by teaching false doctrines but also by lust for defiling passions and despising authority. We must respect our leaders and pray for them, submitting to their authority because Jesus put them in that place to help us.
He continues to characterize false teachers with vivid imagery and condemning speech. He describes them as willful, blaspheming the glorious ones. They are like creatures of instinct and beasts, that will be destroyed in their destruction. They revel in the daytime instead of the night. These blemishes who feast with Jesus’s disciples. They are full of adultery, loving sin, and seek the Christians who are not strong in their faith. They are trained in greed.
They have gone astray and followed the prophet Balaam. They will receive their justice from God. They promise freedom but are slaves to their own corruption. We learn about slavery from them. Peter says anything that enslaves us means we are not free. If we struggle with sin, we are not free. Jesus paid a heavy price for us to be free, so we must put away sin and the flesh, and lived in Jesus’s freedom.
Peter echoes the writer of Hebrews in talking about false teachers who have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of Jesus, only to become entangled in them again. The last state is worse than the first. He says that would have been better for them not to have known righteousness. We must stay close to Jesus and not stray from His path.
Jude addresses God’s judgment on false teachers (Jude 3-16). Although he writes about the joy of salvation, he must first address false teachers who seek to muddle and destroy it. We must contend for the faith. They creep into the assembly of faith and pervert God’s grace for us. Jesus saved us out of the land of Egypt, referring to the slavery of sin, and destroys those who violate our faith.
It also refers to the angels who sinned in Genesis 6 and how God has analyzed them by keeping them in chains. Second, he describes Sodom and Gomorrah God’s fiery judgment for their sins of sexual immorality and unnatural desires. These examples show God deals with the wickedness of false teachers.
The language between Peter and Jude is very similar, as Jude refers to false teachers as relying on their dreams, rejecting authority, and blaspheming the glorious ones. Jude says false teachers blaspheme what they don’t understand (the faith and doctrines of Jesus). He also refers to false teachers as animals.
He uses three references to the Old Testament, people who violated God’s laws and paid the price. False teachers are “hidden reefs at your love feasts” who are among true believers, sneaking around the church. Jude presents six images of these false teachers. They are shepherds who feed themselves instead of feeding God’s flock. He describes them as waterless clouds swept along by the wind, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wandering stars. The same gloom the fallen angels suffer for eternity Jude attributes to false teachers.
He further describes false teachers as grumblers, malcontents, following their sinful desires, loud-mouthed boasters, and those who show favoritism to gain an advantage. We benefit from these descriptions so we know how to recognize false teachers in the Church today.
The Day the Lord
In the Old Testament, the profits speak of the Day of the Lord as the time at the end when God will judge the wicked. Apparently there was a false teaching that this Day of the Lord would not come (2 Peter 3:1-13). Peter addresses this false teaching. He sees his letters as reminders to first century saints and to us.
He refers to what the Old Testament prophets said about the Day of the Lord, and what the apostles have received as a commandment from the Lord. The Lord has spoken through both groups about this day of judgment and we should not think that it will not come. People who scoff at God’s commands and teaching, mocking the fact that this day has not yet come.
Time will not always be on their side. He reminds them that no one knows how long it was before the creation of the world to the Flood. But God judged those people even though they did not believe He would. Peter famously says that, “A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day to the Lord.” We should understand this to mean that God does not perceive time as we do. It he does not say that a day is a thousand years, but that a day is like a thousand years. God does not judge time as we do.
Peter says God is patient, not willing that anyone should perish, but that everyone should repent. The coming of the Day of the Lord will be a surprise to everyone who is not ready. What sort of people should we be knowing that the end is coming? We need to be holy and godly. Despite the distraction of the heavens and earth.
Examples from the Old Testament and Apocrypha
Peter and Jude use Old Testament and apocryphal examples in their writing. Peter refers to fallen angels in Genesis 6, God’s preservation of Noah and his family in Genesis 7-9, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God’s rescue of righteous Lot (2 Peter 2:4-8). These illustrations all come from Genesis.
The interpretation of the “Sons of God” at the beginning of Genesis 6 as fallen angels for committing a sin against God by marrying the daughters of men has existed from at least the Second Temple Period. No one would contest this interpretive move by Peter.
It’s interesting to note that Jude has a similar wording and approach (Jude 6). He adds that they didn’t stay within their own position of authority, probably meaning that they left having to commit this sin against God’s institution of marriage. Jude and Peter talk about God’s judgment in “eternal gloomy darkness” until God’s judgment day. We read about that in Revelation ?.
Jude refers to the land of Egypt (Jude 5). Both Peter and Jude reference Sodom and Gomorrah as God’s judgment (2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7) and Balaam (2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11). But Jude references other places in Genesis. He says they walked in the way of Cain in Genesis 4 (Jude 11). He says they perished in Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 (Jude 11).
Jude refers strangely to a dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil (Jude 9) and quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch (Jude 14-15). Jude alludes to Zechariah 3:2 when he puts in the mouth of the archangel Michael the words of the Lord, “The Lord rebuke you.” Satan as an accuser is consistent in both Old and New Testaments. It probably comes from the apocryphal book of the Assumption of Moses.
We don’t see this quote in Genesis when it talks about Enoch, who walked with God. Enoch says nothing in that reference. It is from the apocryphal book of Enoch. Many Christians have problems with Jude quoting a book not inspired by God as the books included in the Bible. Jude quotes from this book because it is popular in the first century, and his audience is aware of it. It’s no different than a preacher quoting from a poem or work of popular writing in our time. Just because Jude quotes it does not make the book inspired.
Final Words from Peter and Jude
Peter ends his letter by telling us to be found in Christ by leading a blameless life (2 Peter 3:14-18). We count the Lord’s patience as salvation. False teachers twist the Scriptures. We must not be like by avoiding the error of their teaching. We must grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Jude ends his letter with the beautiful doxology dedicated to the Lord (Jude 24-25). We rely on Jesus, who keeps us from stumbling. He will present us before the father as blameless and with great joy. Let us live up to these commands and descriptions of us, and keep false teachers out of the Church.
Is the Spirit bringing any of these passages to your mind as you read this? Take it before the Lord as something He wants to perfect in your character.
We are over halfway through the General Epistles after discussing 2 Peter and Jude. Next, we will observe growing in Christian character from John’s letters.