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9. Problems of the Early Church (Part One)

In order to understand fully and appreciate those New Testament books which yet remain for consideration in these lessons, mention should now be made of the situation that confronted the leaders of the early Church. During the years following the Pentecostal experience, considerable progress had been made. Quite a number of Christian groups or churches had been established, several important Christian doctrines had been formulated, and the Gospel message had been carried to many parts of the world. But immediately following the martyrdom of Paul, a number of serious problems arose; these not only tended to check the growth, but also threatened the very existence of the Christian church. It was in an attempt to meet and solve these problems, that several New Testament books were written. These books, while dealing with the specific problems, also mention other matters; but in each instance the main purpose of the book is easily discernible. In this lesson, and the next, some of these problems will be mentioned, and the New Testament books relating thereto will be named and discussed. This arrangement will reveal clearly the main purpose of the books, and will throw additional light on certain passages contained therein which might otherwise remain obscure. Furthermore, knowledge of the original purpose in writing these books will prove invaluable, especially when seeking to apply the teaching to present-day problems.

First Problem: Passing of the Eyewitnesses

read the passage
Luke 1:1-4; John 1:14-18; Acts 1:1-8

Students of the New Testament frequently make inquiries regarding the origin of the Gospels. They ask: "When were the Gospels written? Why were they necessary? What was the main purpose of the writers?"

Perhaps the best way of dealing with these inquiries will be to recall that when the early Christians met together for worship, oral testimony constituted an important part of their proceedings. An Apostle, or someone closely related to the Apostles, would tell the assembled converts how he had heard the Lord say this or that, or how he had seen the Lord heal the sick and give sight to the blind. This firsthand testimony was highly regarded, and the speakers were frequently referred to as "eyewitnesses." However, the persecutions soon thinned out this company of eyewitnesses, so that at a comparatively early date very few persons remained who could give firsthand testimony regarding the teaching and activities of the Lord. What was to be done? How could this highly important testimony be imparted to the new converts? Now that the eyewitnesses were gone, who could take their place?

Fortunately, a solution to the problem was soon found. The Gospels were written just in time to take the place of the departed eyewitnesses, and these written accounts gave the oral teaching permanent form. Had the Christian church been compelled to rely upon the testimony of persons who were not eyewitnesses, the stories concerning Jesus would have shown many variations, and these in turn would have caused confusion. But the testimony recorded in the Gospels remained constant. Furthermore, the Gospels could be regarded as authentic, since the stories contained therein were vouched for by the Apostles, or persons closely associated with them.

The Synoptic Gospels were the first to appear. Mark's Gospel was written shortly after A.D. 65, the writer averring that he had written down accurately the words of Peter. Shortly afterward (around A.D. 70-75) there appeared the fuller Gospels of Matthew and Luke—Matthew being an actual eyewitness, and Luke stating that he had compiled the sayings and activities of Jesus "just as they were delivered to us by ... eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2). Later came John's Gospel, with the more advanced teachings of Jesus. This Gospel was also written by an eyewitness, or someone very closely associated with Jesus. It will be noted that this writer first testified regarding personal contact with the Lord, and then stated his purpose in writing: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31). Thus, the early church solved the problem of the passing eyewitnesses. The men and women who had heard and seen the Lord departed from the scene, but the Gospels made their testimony available for all Christians through the succeeding years.

Metaphysical Notes Regarding the Gospel Writers:

Matthew: The New Testament states that Matthew, before his call to discipleship, was a tax collector (Matt. 9:9). Mark's Gospel refers to him as "Levi the son of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14). Metaphysically, Matthew symbolizes "the will faculty in man" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 433), while Levi symbolizes "the faculty of love in human consciousness" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 401). This combination may indicate that as a tax collector, Matthew's activities were directed by personal will, but as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and as a Gospel writer, Matthew symbolized the consecrated will. The present-day application of this symbology is made clear in the following quotation:

"The will always enters into man's decisions. The will makes the final choice to give up all and follow Jesus. This lesson on the surrendering of the old ideas and conditions, that the greater increase of good may come into one's life, is based on Matthew because Matthew represents the will. The will has been given over to the thought of accumulation by imposition on external resources (tax gatherer). In the regeneration the will is converted, and is taught by prayer and meditation how to stabilize the universal substance. ... When the individual will has become a disciple of the Christ, spiritual I AM, the schooling of man begins" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 434).

Mark: John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark, acted as assistant to Paul and Peter. (See Acts 12:25 and I Pet. 5:13.) Metaphysically, John Mark "represents a combination of zeal and love. Mark means shining, and John, according to some authorities, means God's gift" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 426). Mark's intense zeal shows forth both in the language of his Gospel and in the type of activities recorded. It is noteworthy that the word immediately is used more than fifty times. Evidently the writer of this Gospel believed that actions speak louder than words!

Luke: Because Luke was a physician, it is customary to associate healing ideas with Luke's Gospel. Not only does the Gospel of Luke contain many accounts of Jesus' healing miracles, but the entire tone is of a healing nature. Luke wrote discreetly regarding persons in authority, and passed lightly over controversial matters. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Luke's Gospel has been referred to as "the most beautiful book ever written." Metaphysically, Luke means "luminous; light-giving; enlightening; instructing" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 407); and all this is given present-day application in the following quotation:

"In Col. 4:14 Paul refers to Luke as 'the beloved physician.' Metaphysically this would indicate that Luke belongs to that phase of the intelligence that has to do with keeping the body well. As a missionary Luke carries the healing message to all parts of the body. Paul and Luke working together symbolize the converted will and spiritual illumination united in presenting the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the entire being" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 408).

John: "The apostle John represents the spiritual faculty of love. He is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and love is the dominant theme of all his teachings and writings. In the outpicturing of Jesus' development, John signifies the faculty of love in its masculine or positive degree of action, while the various Marys of the New Testament characterize the different subjective activities of love" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 358). The Gospel of John contains many outstanding teachings of Jesus regarding love, such as: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16) and, "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12).

The Gospel of John also contains the "I AM" teachings of Jesus Christ, and it should be noted that these do not appear in the Synoptic Gospels. (See John 6:35; 8:12; 10:14; 11:25.) In connection with these references, the following quotation will be found helpful: "The I AM can also be explained as the metaphysical name of the spiritual self, as distinguished from the sensate self. One is governed by God; the other, by self. Christ is the Scriptural name for spiritual I AM. Jesus called it the Father" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 291).

(Note: Further details regarding the Gospels were given in the introduction to Lesson One, Part One, of this course.)

Second Problem: Dissensions and Disturbances

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John 13:31-35; 15:12-17; Eph. 4:1-6

Nowadays there is a tendency to regard Christian churches of the early days as ideal institutions, with all members working together in love, peace, and harmony. This makes a beautiful picture, but it is far from being accurate. In point of fact, the New Testament indicates that there were many dissensions and disturbances within the early Christian groups and at a comparatively early date there appeared a very helpful document dealing with this problem. This document is now known as The Epistle of James, and all its five chapters deal with problems arising within Christian groups or churches. The general theme of this Epistle may be stated as: "The practical application of Christian principles," with the subtitle: "Internal dissensions and disturbances— their cause and cure." The Epistle of James should, therefore, be studied from this viewpoint, keeping well in mind that many of the problems and solutions set forth have present-day application. The following notes will be found helpful in making this study.

The Epistle of James

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James 1:1 (Entire letter)

The Author: The writer of this Epistle declares himself to be "James (Heb. Jacob), a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). This James is usually regarded as James, the brother of Jesus, and was referred to in the early church as "James the Just." Apparently James did not accept the Christian teaching during the active ministry of Jesus, but was converted at the time of the Resurrection. (See I Cor. 15:7.) Following the Ascension, James became the head, or presiding elder, of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem, and the New Testament has several references to his activities while occupying this important position. (See Gal. 1:19; Acts 15:4-29; 21:17-19.) This Epistle of James was written, probably, shortly before A.D. 66.

Readers: In the opening verse of the Epistle of James the "readers" are referred to as "the twelve tribes in the Dispersion" (James 1:1). But since the writer was concerned with Christian converts rather than the tribes of Israel, this must be regarded as a figure of speech. The thought was that just as the Israelites were dispersed throughout various parts of the world, so had the Christian groups extended far beyond the bounds of the Holy Land. The "readers," therefore, included Christian converts in Syria, Asia Minor, Europe, and possibly North Africa.

Dissensions and Disturbances: The Epistle of James indicates that the writer was familiar with the functioning of the various church groups, and was also aware of the dissensions and disturbances which, from time to time, arouse therein. He therefore sought to deal with the various situations by pointing out the causes of the troubles, and then indicating the remedies. It will be noted that James, as presiding elder of the Apostolic Council, inserted a note of authority into his Epistle, as he urged the readers to take all necessary action to restore peace and harmony within the Christian groups concerned. For purposes of study, the various causes of these dissensions and disturbances are listed below, together with the appropriate passages in the Epistle of James. In each instance, the indicated Scripture passage should be carefully read and compared with the comments given in this lesson. This will help to make each situation clear. Then the entire Epistle should be read, so that the importance of each section may be seen in relation to the whole.

read the passage
James 1:2-27


The New Testament indicates that certain unauthorized teachers found their way into the early church, and sought to replace Christian doctrine with a primitive form of Gnosticism. These teachers mingled freely with the Christian converts, seeking to win them over with promises of advanced knowledge, deeper understanding, and profound wisdom. This soon led to dissensions and disturbances in the various churches. James sought to lead the disaffected converts back into Christian ways of thinking and living. He warned them not to be led astray by these false prophets, but to go direct to God for the fulfillment of all their desires for higher teaching. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God ... But let him ask in faith, with no doubting" (James 1:5-6). James further pointed out that deeper understanding is attained, not through this erroneous teaching, but by putting the Christian teaching into regular daily practice. Note especially the teaching regarding "pure religion" given in the closing verses of this first chapter.

read the passage
James 2:1-13


Apparently, in certain sections of the early church there had developed a tendency toward partiality. It would appear that some Christian ministers were devoting their time and efforts to securing wealthy members for their churches—for such members would be good givers!—and special attention was given to richly appareled visitors. But in this process, the needs of the poorer converts were overlooked, and in some instances there were actual hardships. Naturally this state of affairs soon caused dissension and disturbance in the congregations affected. James therefore sternly admonished the offending ministers, urging them to mend their ways, and to recognize and practice the principles of true Christian brotherhood.

read the passage
James 2:14-26


Paul, during his missionary activities, placed great emphasis on the doctrine of salvation by faith. But at quite an early date certain misunderstandings regarding the meaning of the word faith arose in the Christian groups; and this led to dissension. James felt it necessary to set the record straight. In his Epistle he pointed out that if faith was to be effective, it must be accompanied by corresponding action. Faith, he stated, must be made manifest through Christian living; for "faith apart from works isdead"(James 2:26).

Sometimes New Testament readers become concerned because of the seeming difference between the teachings of Paul and what is presented in the Epistle of James. But rightly understood, there is no contradiction. For Paul, the word faith meant complete reliance upon Jesus Christ for salvation, and all his Epistles were written from this standpoint. James, however, recognized that some converts were using the word faith to indicate that they were members of Christian groups, and so on; so he pointed out that this was not "saving faith." They must demonstrate their faith by their mode of living. Also for Paul, the word works meant strict observance of the Jewish ceremonial law; but James used the word works to indicate charitable acts, or Christian living. These distinctions should be kept well in mind when reading the Epistle of James.

read the passage
James 3:1-4:12


This section of James' Epistle is so clearly written that very little comment is necessary. Careless talk and idle gossip caused dissensions and disturbances in many of the Christian groups, and James felt it necessary to admonish the offenders. "The tongue is a little member and boasts of great things," he wrote; but see "How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!" (James 3:5). James thus indicates that offenses of this sort could endanger the entire church, and should be immediately checked.

read the passage
James 5:13-20


The New Testament indicates that Christian healing had an important place in the ministry of Jesus Christ and also in the activities of the Apostles, and many remarkable healings are recorded. However, it would appear that some of the Gentile converts in the early church were still seeking healing through heathen incantations and other magical ceremonies. This practice tended to bring about dissensions in some of the Christian groups. James therefore directed special attention to the Christian way of healing, and gave his readers specific instructions regarding healing methods. He also stressed the need for faith and persistent prayer, averring that "the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:15).

Metaphysical Notes:

Jesus had a disciple named James, who was the son of Zebedee and brother of John, but this James was put to death by Herod Agrippa, about A.D. 44. (See Acts 12:1.) James, the author of the Epistle, was a brother of Jesus, and was also the presiding officer of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem, as already indicated. However, the following metaphysical explanation—originally dealing with James the disciple—is also applicable to the author of the Epistle of James. "James ... represents the faculty of judgment in individual consciousness ... We also call this faculty justice, discrimination; it is that quality in us which carefully weighs a question and draws a conclusion. The prevailing tendency of judgment is toward caution, tearfulness, criticism, and condemnation, when it draws its conclusions from the effect side of existence. We should therefore faithfully affirm the spiritual aspect of this faculty and always seek the guidance and good judgment of spiritual light and understanding" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 320).

Third problem: The Persecutions

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Matt. 5:10-12; Luke 21:10-19; John 15:18-20

During Jesus' ministry, He foretold that His followers would be called upon to endure persecution, and the New Testament indicates that His predictions were fulfilled during the early period of Christian history, as already mentioned in these lessons. However, these persecutions raised a serious problem for the leaders of the early church. The leaders were continually asking: How can the Christian converts be persuaded to stand steady in the face of such appalling conditions and not abandon their faith? What can be done to strengthen wavering Christians? It was in an effort to solve this problem that several New Testament books were written. Two of these books will now be considered.

read the passage
I Pet. 1:1-9; I Pet. 2:1-10; I Pet. 4:12-19

Peter, accompanied by Silvanus (Silas) and Mark, arrived at Rome about A.D. 62, and suffered martyrdom in that city about A.D. 67. Shortly before his martyrdom, Peter dispatched an important letter to the Christian groups in Asia Minor. This letter is now known as the First Epistle of Peter. It was written in Greek by Silvanus, from the Aramaic dictation of Peter—the word Babylon, of course, indicating the city of Rome, where the Epistle was probably written. (See I Pet. 5:12-13.) The main purpose of the Epistle was to strengthen the faith of the Christian converts, and to encourage them to hold steady in face of the severe persecutions. The writer placed emphasis on several important points.

First: The converts were to regard persecution as a cleansing process, such as was used to refine precious metals; for this would eventually work out to their advantage. They were to recognize that they were "born anew ... to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (I Pet. 1:3-4). But in the meantime they would be called upon "to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold ... may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:6-7).

Second: Converts were also to remember that they had an important mission to fulfill, and for this purpose they had been richly endowed by God. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:9). God had given them a special revelation and even in face of this persecution, they must fulfill their mission.

Third: Converts were enjoined to rejoice in their sufferings, and to regard persecution as a privilege. Did not Christ suffer? In their sufferings they were sharing in the experiences of their Lord. "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (I Pet. 4:12-13).

Fourth: Converts were further encouraged to hold steady in times of persecution by repeated assurances regarding the return of the Lord. Persecution would endure only for a brief period, and then the Lord would set all things right. "The end of all things is at hand" (I Pet. 4:7); "And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (I Pet. 5:4); "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace ... will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you" (I Pet. 5:10).

In addition to the above, Peter also called upon the converts to conduct all their daily activities in accord with Christian principles. It will be noted that Peter's instructions are couched in terms of apostolic authority. Apparently he recognized that the Christian life would form the best answer to all accusations directed against the Christians. Moreover, the example thus set might be the means of winning many further converts to Christianity, even from the ranks of their persecutors!

The First Epistle of Peter should now be read in its entirety, keeping well in mind the main purpose of the writer, and using as a guide the outline provided in Appendix "A."

read the passage
II Pet. 1:12-21; II Pet. 2:1-3; II Pet. 3:1-13

This Epistle also deals with the persecutions, and the main theme is somewhat similar to that of First Peter. However, there are many marked differences between the two Epistles, and the following special features connected with the Second Epistle of Peter should be carefully noted.

Date and Authorship: This Second Epistle seems to have been written somewhere between A.D. 120 and A.D. 150. But since Peter was martyred about A.D. 67, it is apparent that Peter could not have been the writer of this Epistle. The suggestion has been made that, around the date mentioned above, someone who was well versed in the teachings and traditions of Peter wrote what may be termed a revised edition of First Peter. In this, which we now term the Second Epistle, the writer emphasized Peter's earlier teachings regarding faith, and then he added his own views concerning the Second Coming of the Lord, hoping thereby to strengthen the faith of the hard-pressed Christians. Just what those views were will be explained below.

The Main Problem: When Second Peter was written, the main problem still had to do with the persecutions but in this instance the problem was intensified. In the earlier days, Christians had been encouraged to hold steady by the promise of the Lord's speedy return. However, many years had now passed by, and still there was no sign of the Lord'scoming. Many Christians were becoming wearied by this long period of waiting, and some of them were abandoning all hope of relief from the persecutions. "Where is the promise of his coming?" they cried; "For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation" (II Pet. 3:4). Thus the Christians were suffering, not only from the persecutions—which continued with unabated fury—but also from the weariness of waiting, together with the tragic suspicion that somehow they had been forsaken by their beloved Lord.

The Suggested Solution: In the period covered by First Peter, the important question was: How can Christians be persuaded to hold steady in face of persecution? In the later period, when Second Peter was written, the problem had shifted somewhat, and it was then a matter of getting Christians to hold on to their belief in the Second Coming of the Lord, despite the long delay. The writer of Second Peter attempted to explain this delay by reminding his readers of a teaching which would be familiar to many Jewish Christians. The Jewish rabbis frequently proclaimed that "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (See Psalms 90:4 and II Pet. 3:8.) In other words, God takes no account of what men call "time." Thus the writer of Second Peter indicated that there was no real delay in the Lord's coming. The Lord would surely appear at the divinely appointed moment, but in the meantime Christians must show their faith by waiting patiently for His return. The writer of this Second Epistle then advanced a further idea—which may appear somewhat in the nature of an anticlimax. There was a possibility, he suggested, that the Lord's return was purposely delayed in order to give unconverted persons an opportunity to repent and become Christians. However, the writer continued to aver that the Lord would surely come, at His own appointed time—and then woe betide all those who had opposed the work of the Lord's kingdom!

A Further Problem: At the time when Second Peter was written, a considerable amount of erroneous teaching had made its way into the various Christian groups of Asia Minor, and elsewhere. This was not an entirely new development, for references to this are to be found in several of the earlier writings. The writer of Second Peter sought to eradicate this false teaching by a twofold effort. First, he recalled and emphasized the earlier teachings of Peter, reminding his readers how the Apostle said, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:16). Second, he incorporated a lengthy section from a letter written much earlier by Jude (one of the "Brethren of the Lord"), in which all forms of false teaching were denounced in no uncertain terms. The writer of Second Peter thus used the authority and teaching of Peter and Jude to strengthen his condemnation of these false teachers and their teaching. For purposes of study it will be well at this time to compare Jude 4-16 with II Pet. 2:1-18, and Jude 17-23 with II Pet. 3:2-7. The Epistle of Jude will be fully discussed in the following lesson.

With the above information for ready reference, the student should now read through the entire Second Epistle of Peter, using the outline given in Appendix "B" as a guide.

Metaphysical Notes:

Metaphysically, Peter symbolizes the spiritual faculty of faith, as was explained in the first lesson of this series. Faith has been defined as "the perceiving power of the mind," or that deep inner knowing which enables us to recognize reality, despite appearances. However, in the Epistles of Peter, most references to faith also indicate what may be termed a loving, wholehearted trust in Jesus Christ. Christians were urged to rely upon His ability to strengthen and sustain them, and to bring them safely through every trial or difficulty that might arise. Two important aspects of faith are especially stressed in the First and Second Epistles of Peter.

First: Faith as an Antidote for Fear. This aspect of faith is brought out very clearly in the First Epistle of Peter. During the early days of the persecutions, the Christians were beset by fears of many kinds, for at any moment they might be arrested, tortured, and put to death. The writer of this Epistle assured them that they would be "guarded through faith"; and he further promised them that "as the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (II Pet. 1:5-9). This makes stirring reading. When studying such passages, the student should recognize that while these assurances were originally given to the early church, they have present-day application. Times and circumstances may have changed, but faith still remains as a most effective antidote for fear.

Second: Faith as a Sustaining Power. As already noted, Second Peter was written when Christians were becoming wearied with their long waiting for the return of the Lord. Many of them had become quite discouraged, and were about to give up. Therefore the writer of Second Peter sought to encourage the Christians to hold on just a little longer, for the Lord would surely appear. In this effort, the writer pointed out that if faith was to accomplish its sustaining work, it must be strengthened and enriched; and then he gave what may be termed seven important steps for the development of faith. He urged the Christians to "make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." He then assured them that "if you do this you will never fall," and "there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:5-11).

It should be noted that all these encouraging words were addressed to "those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:1). This would indicate that, as well as meeting the needs of the hard-pressed Christians of the early church, the teaching also has present-day application. We may strengthen our faith by following the seven steps indicated above. In this way faith will become a great sustaining power to uphold us at all times, no matter how difficult the situation nor how hard pressed we may be. Faith will sustain us today, just as it sustained the Christians of the early church. Another New Testament writer gives us the assurance that "this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (I John 5:4). The closing admonition in Second Peter forms an appropriate closing for this lesson:

"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. Amen" (II Pet. 3:18).


Written about A.D. 67, probably from Rome. Main purpose: To strengthen the faith of Christians, and encourage them to hold steady in persecution.

Introduction and Greeting (I Pet. 1:1-2)

1. The Christian Hope of Salvation (I Pet. 1:6-12)

"Rejoice ... that ... your faith, more precious than gold ... tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

2. The Christian Character (I Pet. 1:13-2:10)

  1. Holiness of life. I Pet. 1:13-21.
  2. Brotherly love. I Pet. 1:22-25.
  3. A chosen race—holy nation. I Pet. 2:1-10.

3. Practical Exhortations—in View of Perils of the Times (I Pet. 2:11-4:19)

  1. Necessity for setting a good example. I Pet. 2:11-12.
  2. Submission to civil authorities. I Pet. 2:13-17.
  3. Duty of servants. I Pet. 2:18-25.
  4. Relation between husbands and wives. I Pet. 3:1-12.
  5. Endurance, after example of Jesus Christ. I Pet. 3:13-22.
  6. Renunciation of heathen life. I Pet. 4:1 -6.
  7. Self-control, love, service. I Pet. 4:7-11.
  8. Ordeal of suffering. I Pet 4:12-19.

4. Conclusion (I Pet. 5:1-14)

  1. Special message to Elders. I Pet. 5:1-5.
  2. General exhortations. I Pet. 5:6-11.
  3. Personal word regarding writer (Silvanus) and the Apostle Peter's benediction. I Pet. 5:12-14.

Note: The reference to "Babylon" (Rome) may indicate the place of writing.


Written between A.D. 120 and A.D. 150. Purpose: To encourage Christians to await patiently the Lord's return. The writer also denounces false teachers and their teaching.

Salutation (II Pet. 1:1-2)

1. Spiritual Growth (II Pet. 1:3-21)

  1. Seven steps for development of faith. II Pet. 1:3-11.
  2. Peter's teaching regarding his departure. II Pet. 1:12-15.
  3. "Eyewitnesses of his majesty." II Pet. 1:16-21.

2. Warning Against False Teaching (II Pet. 2:1-22)

  1. Appearance of "false prophets." II Pet.2:1-3.
  2. Historical parallels regarding heretical activities. II Pet. 2:4-16.
  3. "Last state ... worse ... than the first." II Pet. 2:17-22.

(Note: Compare II Pet.2:1-18 with Jude 4-16.)

3. The Return of the Lord (II Pet. 3:1-13)

  1. Reminder of earlier teaching regarding "scoffers." II Pet. 3:1-7.
  2. Explanation of seeming delay in Lord's return. II Pet. 3:8-9.
  3. Teaching regarding "end of all things." II Pet. 3:10-13.

(Note: Compare II Peter 3:2-7 with Jude 17-23.)

4. Closing Admonitions and Doxology (II Pet. 3:14-18)

Note reference to teachings of the Apostle Paul.

Questions for Lesson 9

Historical Questions:
  1. What was the nature of the problem that brought about the writing of the Gospels? Explain briefly. In what respect were the written Gospels superior to oral testimony?
  2. Which Epistle in the New Testament deals specifically with dissensions and disturbances within Christian groups? Who was the author of this Epistle? What position did he hold in the early church? Give Scripture references.
  3. Briefly explain the teaching regarding faith, which is given in James' Epistle. How does this compare with the teaching found in Paul's Epistles? Give Scripture references.
  4. What was the main purpose of the First Epistle of Peter? How did the writer of this Epistle help Christians to hold steady in times of persecution? Give references.
  5. When and why was the Second Epistle of Peter written? What suggestions did the writer make regarding the seeming delay in the Lord's return? Give references. How would these suggestions help the hard-pressed Christians?
Metaphysical Questions:
  1. What is the metaphysical meaning of the name Matthew? What other name is applied to this apostle in the New Testament? Explain briefly the difference between personal will and consecrated will. How was this illustrated in Matthew's experience?
  2. What does John represent metaphysically? Give three statements of Jesus (taken from John's Gospel), which clearly indicate how we should express love.
  3. Which spiritual faculty is represented by James? Explain very briefly how James used this faculty in dealing with the problems discussed in his Epistle.
  4. Explain briefly how faith overcomes fear. Give an example of this activity of faith from the teaching in the First Epistle of Peter. Also, if possible, add an example from your own personal experience.
  5. In what way or ways may faith be regarded as a sustaining power? How may we continue to hold on in faith when the situation seems hopeless? Would any suggestions given in Second Peter be helpful today?