3. Closing exhortation, 3:14-18
An exhortation to righteous livingArgument
In conclusion, Peter calls on his readers "to live holy and godly lives", to "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." Peter has provided the motivation for this way of life, namely, the coming day of the Lord; a "looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells", v13. Yet, our striving to live godly lives can be undermined in two ways. First, there is the seeming delay in Christ's return. To overcome our doubts we need to remember that this is but a sign of God's grace, a "patience" which provides an opportunity for the salvation of many. Second, there is the temptation to wrongly apply the freedom we possess in Christ, "the glorious liberty of the children of God", Rom.8:21. The freedom we possess in Christ is not freedom to sin, but the freedom "to live holy and godly lives."
i] Context: See 1:1-2.
ii] Background: See 1:1-2
iii] Structure: Peter concludes his letter:
The Peroratio / Conclusion, v14-18:
summary recapitulation of the argument of the letter.
a final emotional appeal.
We are given a further insight into the false teachers when, in v15-16, Peter notes that the subject of the Lord's "patience", his grace, takes pride of place in Paul's letters. We know that "the Pauline teaching on grace (here expressed as the 'forbearance' of God, ..') ... was misunderstood by some as an invitation to license: see Rom.3:8, 6:1, 15", Sidebottom. In fact, Paul was accused by the members of the circumcision party of promoting license, promoting free grace without responsibility - "why not sin that grace may abound?" Their reaction to the Pauline gospel was not totally out of the ball-park, given that a failure to understand the nature of God's "forbearance" (God's eternal grace), and the freedom we possess in Christ, is easily polluted. Peter states that Paul's letters contain matters that are hard to understand, and it is likely that the application of divine grace is the issue he has in mind. Certainly the false teachers have failed to understand that liberty does not mean liberty to sin.
Although the concept of divine grace is simple, it is easily misunderstood. As the Moravians said of Wesley, the doctrine of God's free grace "is not artful enough for the English mind." Wesley's problem lay in his pietism, his legalism; he, like so many in the English church at the time, was enslaved by the doctrine of sanctification by obedience. Thankfully, his chains were loosed on hearing a reading of Luther's preface to the book of Romans. The false teachers Peter addresses are affected by the opposite problem, their own version of perfectionism - under the grace of God they were already perfect, free from moral constraint and no longer having to give account before God - they were libertines to the end.
The doctrine of justification by grace through faith is difficult to navigate. On the one hand, we find it hard to accept that the full appropriation of God's promised blessings is given as a gift of grace through faith in the faithfulness of Christ apart from personal righteousness. On the other hand, we are all too aware of the power of our sinful nature, constantly using the freedom / liberty we may posses in Christ as an opportunity for license. This dichotomy is not easily handled. A libertine's answer to the problem is to ignore sin, but this no answer at all. The traditional answer to the problem is that a Christian is both free in Christ, but at the same time, a slave of Christ, yet this doesn't quite cut it either. A person can't be free and a slave at the same time. Paul's answer to the problem is that grace, of itself, makes us gracious, and this through the operation of the indwelling compelling of the Spirit of Christ. Ethics but serves as a guide to gracious living.
v] Homiletics: Found at peace
The Christian life is lived with an eye to the coming day of judgment, and so Peter calls on his readers to strive to be found by God "at peace." Possibly "at peace with God", Barclay, so NIV etc., although Peter actually says "found at peace", so "living at peace", CEV, may better reflect what he means. The crucial element in living at peace in community with other flawed human beings is acceptance, or more pointedly forgiveness.
One of the downsides of village life is history; everyone knows everything about everyone way back to the year dot. A believer recently told me of an incident in Primary school where another boy had stolen his award and ripped it up. That boy was now a leading member of the community. My friend told me that he had forgiven him, but will never forget what he did. My father would often say to me, "forgive and forget", as if the two went together; and they do, don't they?
Imagine you had to preach a sermon on forgiveness; what line would you take? Would you run the perfectionist line that we are eternally forgiven and so it doesn't matter whether we forgive others or not? I mean, we are eternally forgiven, but our forgiveness of others does seem to matter to God. We could go down the law road, lay it on the congregation to be forgiving, bang the pulpit a few times, threaten hellfire and damnation, scare the boots off everyone. Maybe we could go down the grace road and focus on the forgiveness we have received in Christ, and point out that the more we are aware of how much we have been forgiven, the more we are likely to forgive others for the hurt we have suffered.
Text - 3:14
A concluding exhortation to righteous living: i] A summary of the argument of the letter, v14-16. Given the coming day of the Lord, live holy and righteous lives, and don't be swayed by those who promote freedom without responsibility, cf., 1:5-7.
dia "so then" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.
prosdokwnteV (prosdokaw) pres. part. "since you are looking forward" - [beloved] awaiting [these things]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal, "because", as NIV, or possibly temporal, "while you are waiting", CEV, ie., "while you are waiting for the realisation of the new heavens and the new earth."
euJreqhnai (euJriskw) aor. pas. inf. "to be found" - [be eager, zealous] to be found [in = by him]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expression what to be zealous for (often classified complementary). The sense is ,"to be found by him at the time of the coming judgment at peace."
aspiloi kai amwmhtoi adj. "spotless, blameless" - spotless and unblemished. The adjectives serve as substantives, best classified as predicate nominatives; "do your utmost to be found ... unblemished and without reproach", REB. Both terms are sacrificial metaphors. "The two words describe Christians as morally pure, metaphorically an unblemished sacrifice to God", Bauckham.
en + dat. "at" - in, at [peace]. Here adverbial, modal, of a state of being, so "at peace", modifying the verbal aspect of the infinitive "to be found." At peace, rather than at enmity.
autw/ dat. pro. "with him" - in him. The function of this dative remains unclear. Dative of association / relation // ethical, "at peace with him", or reference / respect, "with respect to him, in peace", or instrumental, means, "to be found by him at peace." "My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless and living at peace", CEV.
The delay in Christ's coming evidences divine grace as against the false teachers who read delay as non-action. Peter notes that this divine long-suffering is evident in the inspired letters of Paul.
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[our] Lord's [patience]" - [and consider the long suffering, patience, endurance] of the lord [of us]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the Lord's long suffering nature", or verbal, subjective. The genitive hJmwn, "of us", is also adjectival, of subordination, "the Lord over us." Although "Lord" is often used in the NT for Jesus, it seems likely that here the title is being used for God the Father. In the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Lord is always used this way.
swthrian (a) "means salvation" - salvation. Accusative complement of the object "long suffering", standing in a double accusative construction; "interpret our Master's patient restraint for what it is: salvation", Peterson. Paul states that "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance", and Peter sees a similar purpose. "Salvation" asserts a fact about the Lord's patience, so "look upon our Lord's patience as a means of obtaining your salvation", Cassirer, "as your opportunity of salvation", Barclay.
kaqwV "just as" - Comparative; "in like manner."
kai "also" - and. Adjunctive; "just as, in like manner also ..."
hJmwn gen. pro. "our [dear brother Paul]" - [the beloved brother paul] of us. The genitive is adjectival, relational. This is not a royal plural = "my dear brother Paul." Possibly "we Christians", Mayor, but better "we apostles", or better still, "we the immediate colleagues of Paul", the Petrine circle of Christian leaders in Rome, so Bauckham. Note that "Paul" stands in apposition to "beloved brother."
uJmin dat. pro. "[wrote] you" - [wrote] to you. Dative of indirect object. Peter is not suggesting that Paul wrote directly to his readers, but rather that Paul's writings are now the common property of the Christian church.
kata + acc. "with [the wisdom]" - according to [the wisdom]. Expressing a standard; "according to the wisdom given him", ESV. The sense being "under the inspiration of the Spirit", Bauckham.
doqeisan (didwmi) aor. pas. part. "that God gave [him]" - having been given [to him]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "wisdom"; "the wisdom which was given to him." The dative autw/, "to him", is a dative of indirect object.
Peter notes that the subject of divine grace, of the "Lord's patience", is central to Paul's letters, but is not easily understood and so can be twisted by "ill-informed and unbalanced people", Phillips. Obviously, this is applies to the false teachers Peter addresses in this letter.
wV "he writes the same way" - as, like. Comparative, manner; "in like manner"
kai "-" - and. Adjunctive; "also".
en + dat. "in" - in [all his letters]. Locative, expressing space. If pasaiV, "all", is to be taken seriously, then Paul's ethical notes may be the subject which he "also" addresses in the "same way", but the "all" is probably just a sweeping statement; "as he does in his letters." The "all" does indicate that Paul's letters, written originally to individual churches, were by now being assembled into a collection of letters.
lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "speaking" - speaking. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal; "as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters", ESV.
peri + gen. "of [these matters]" - concerning [these things]. Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning."
en + dat. "-" - in [which certain things are hard to understand]. Local, expressing space. "There are of course some things in his letters which are difficult to understand, and which, unhappily, ill-informed and unbalanced people distort", Phillips.
streblousin (streblow) pres. "distort" - [which the unlearned, ignorant and unstable] distort, twist, make crooked, pervert. Hapax legomenon. The word well expresses Peter's charge against the false teachers, of their perverting the word of God, or here particularly, the teachings of Paul. Peter is particularly focused on the ethical libertinism of the false teachers.
wJV "as" - like [and = also the other writings, scriptures]. Comparative, manner; "as they do in like manner."."(as they do the other scriptures)", Phillips. Presumably the Old Testament, but possibly other NT writings.
proV + acc. "to" - to [their own ruin, destruction]. The preposition here most likely expresses result, arrival at = "with the result that"; "and bring disaster on their heads", Phillips.
ii] A final appeal, v17-18. An improper handling of Paul's freedom from the law can easily lead to a self-indulgent lifestyle. This perversion by the false teachers is superficially attractive, but eternally destructive. So, Peter warns his readers to be on their guard lest they be moved from the apostolic doctrine which they have been grounded in.
oun "therefore" - therefore. Usually taken as inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, as NIV, but possibly transitional, as Cassirer below.
umeiV pro. "-" - you [beloved]. Emphatic nominative absolute; "but as for yourselves, dearly-beloved ones, you are forewarned", Cassirer.
proginwskonteV (prosginwskw) pres. part. "since you already know this / since you have been forewarned" - knowing before. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal, "because you have been forewarned", as NIV.
iJn mh + subj. " so that [you may] not" - [guard yourselves] that not = lest. Introducing a negated purpose clause; "take every precaution lest ............... you be swept from the secure ground you stand on."
sunapacqenteV (sunapagw) aor. pas. part. "be carried away" - having been led away with / together with. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "fall away from"; "lest you are carried away ......... and swept from ...."
th/ ... planh/ (h) dat. "by the error" - in the error. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, as NIV; "lest you are led astray by the illusory beliefs of these unprincipled men", Cassirer.
twn aqesmwn (oV) gen. "of the lawless" - of the wicked, lawless, unprincipled, unseemly. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, but it may also be viewed as adjectival, possessive / characteristic; the errors are the characteristic beliefs possessed by the false teachers.
tou ... sthrigmou (oV) gen. "secure position" - [you fall away from the = your own] firmness, stability. With the concrete sense of "safe and secure position." Genitive of direct object after the ek prefix verb "to fall away from."
Rather than be swept from the solid ground of truth by the false teachers, Peter encourages his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter follows his appeal with a doxology.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point; "No, your aim should be .......", Cassirer.
en + dat. "in" - [grow] in. Adverbial, expressing reference / respect, "grow with respect to grace and knowledge", but possibly instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", "grow up by the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and by knowing him", NEB note i.
cariti kai gnwsei dat. "the grace and knowledge" - grace and knowledge. The NIV, as with most translations, assumes that en has grouped both "grace" and "knowledge" together such that both are "of our Lord ...." Kelly sides with the AV and the NAB and opts for "grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord ...." He argues that if we follow the NIV, the genitive "of [our] Lord" must be subjective in relation to grace, but objective in relation to knowledge, ie., a knowledge of / about Jesus. Davies* follows Vogtle who argues that both genitives are subjective, ie., both "grace" and "knowledge" are gifts of God / Jesus (so also Bigg and Green) and that therefore the translation "the grace and knowledge of our Lord ...." is best. "It seems to us, therefore, that what we have here are two gifts of Jesus: we continue growing (the present tense of the imperative indicates something that is ongoing, not something new) in grace / favour that Jesus gives, and in the knowledge that he gives, a knowledge surely of him", Davies*.
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord [and saviour]. The genitive may be classified as ablative, source / origin, or verbal, subjective, as noted above. Bauckham, although holding that both "grace" and "knowledge" are "of our Lord ....", regards that "knowledge" here is objective. He notes that in this letter epignwsiV is "fundamental Christian knowledge received in conversion", whereas gnwsiV "is knowledge which can be acquired and developed in the course of Christian life." So for Bauckham, "grace / favour" is bestowed by Jesus Christ (subjective genitive), but "knowledge" is a "deepening experience of Christ, and understanding of the truth of Christ, which should continue to increase until the Parousia", ie., a growing in a knowledge about Christ (objective genitive).
hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us. The genitive could be classified as adjectival, possessive, "our Lord", or idiomatic / subordination, "Lord over us."
Ihsou Cristou gen. "Jesus Christ" - Genitive standing in apposition to "Lord and Saviour."
autw/ dat. pro. "to him be" - to him [be the glory]. Dative of indirect object of an implied verb (imperative, or optative - "let be / may .... to him) / interest, advantage, or dative of possession, "glory ..... belongs to him" = "to him belongs glory." Given the context, the doxology is addressed to Christ, although normally a doxology is addressed to God the Father. "Glory" is a divine attribute denoting radiance and majesty.
kai .... kai both [now] and - and now and. A correlative construction, as NIV; "both now and."
aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "forever" - [to the day] of the age [amen]. Zerwick suggests that the genitive may be epexegetic, "that day which is eternity", or subjective, "the day (of the Lord) where eternity begins." The phrase "to the day of the age" is idiomatic for "forever / eternity."