Reminding Those Who Remember (2 Peter 1.12-15)
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them...” (v.12a)
Reminding, or causing another person to remember, is needed even for those who are knowledgeable and practiced in God’s truths. This concept alone is found in other places in the Bible, but what motivation did the apostle give for his desire to remind the brethren? “Therefore” directs the reader to see what follows through the lens of what was just read. In this context, the Holy Spirit through Peter instructs the brethren to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (v.10), resulting in God’s gracious gift of “an entrance into the eternal kingdom” (v.11).
This helps the reader to understand the need for reminding the brethren of “these qualities” (v.12). The spiritual stakes couldn’t be higher in the moments of decision that each of us face daily. Israel was not a people who instantly forgot God’s divine will, nor did they suddenly decide not to heed God’s prophets sent to draw them back to Himself. Slowly, by degrees, they strayed farther and farther from the truth until finally they are described as a people who did not know the LORD! (Hosea 5.4; Amos 3.10).
The concept of covenant is an agreement established by commitment and sustained by memory. To that end, Peter by inspiration is seeking to provoke his readers to remember these things even though they are knowledgeable and have been established in these things for some time. Many of the congregations where Christians worship today in the U.S. are already older than nearly all the original congregations to whom Peter’s letter might have been read! How much more so are we in 2018 in need of reminding of “these qualities”! Even those Christians who already have the truth of God’s word “dyed in the wool” so to speak, need to be reminded of the “old paths” (Jeremiah 6.16).
“I think it right, as long as I am in the body, to stir you up by way of reminder” (v.13)
Peter’s desire to strengthen the memory is matched with his efforts both in this letter and in his ministry in general toward Christians. This stirring up is intended to produce a desired effect, perhaps to support their efforts to adopt and practice the “qualities” that the letter addresses prior to this section. The phrase “to stir you up” is an interesting and unique phrase that is found only here in the New Testament. In fact, the word “stir” only occurs one other place in the New Testament (Hebrews 10.24) and is also a relatively uncommon word in the Old Testament.
Anyone who has spent time in a kitchen understands the difference between gently folding, stirring, and beating/whipping while cooking. Stirring is neither gentle nor violent, and serves as a great descriptive image of how one must properly provoke one another to “love and good works” (Hebrews 10.24). Note in Hebrews 10.24 how the Hebrew writer uses the same term: “let us consider how to stir up one another..”.
As Christians we tend to approach stirring up one another with one of two extreme approaches. With many like myself, my provoking of another Christian to “love and good works” is often is too gentle and indirect to affect any real change in the individual. This is akin to using a teaspoon to stir sugar into a gallon of tea. If we wish to affect positive change in the lives of unbelievers and Christians, we must be willing to speak frankly and honestly with them. Our words cannot be so diluted by social convention, fear, and anxiety that we avoid saying what needs to be said. We read the sermons of the Old Testament prophets and are shocked by their words. Perhaps we should try a dash of their boldness and honesty in our conversations with others.
There are some Christians who “stir up one another” on the other extreme of the scale as well. In their overzealousness to provoke change in the individual, their words and persistence cross the line of propriety into hostility and sometimes cruelty. The difference between a tool and a weapon is the way it is wielded, and the scriptures are no different. If our efforts to bring back a soul are not done with a proper consideration for the situation, for the person, for the time and the place, then we misuse the truth of the scriptures and as a result stand between the hearer and the message. It is as ineffective to stir a gallon of tea with a teaspoon as it is with a shovel.
“since I know the putting off of my body will be soon…” (v.14a)
Whether this phrase indicates that Peter’s death is imminent (as is likely the case with Paul in 2 Timothy 4), or simply that he knows generally that his time is short is not clear from the text. In either case, Peter agrees with other passages that show our time on earth is growing ever shorter. Our time, like Peters, is also short, as we do not know how much time we have left. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4.14b)
Based on Peter’s words here, how important was it that he use the remainder of his life to affect godliness and righteousness in his brethren? In our culture in the U.S. we have songs, books, and films centered on the premise of fulfilling the items on one’s “bucket list”. Peter’s “bucket list”, based on this text, was a rather short one: “remind my brethren of God’s will and stir them up to both keep it and pass it on”. The shortness of Peter’s life is ever-present in his mind, and rather than consider the time his own to do with it as he pleases he devotes his last “two mites” to the LORD.
“so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (v.15b)
The only inheritance we can leave of ANY worth is the knowledge and application of God’s Word. Since we are not to put our stock on earthly treasure (Matthew 6.19-20), which would include what is left to our children/grandchildren, how much spiritual treasure have you left to your household? Are we diligent to secure for our children/grandchildren a stockpile of spiritual treasures? Not that our righteousness nor our wickedness can be accounted to our children (Ezekiel 18) but these precious souls entrusted to us by God learn righteousness or wickedness from us! What sort of spiritual legacy are you leaving behind you when you depart?
There is fast approaching a time in which you can no longer teach or edify or rebuke or encourage. For many people this is at the point of their death. For others, illness or injury removes their ability to teach others before death. Are you concerned that your brethren are “able at any time to recall these things” after your departure? A Christian who is unconcerned for others fails to follow the example of the Christ who was intensely concerned with the souls of those who were around Him. May we learn to take the example of Peter as he is described in 2 Peter 1, and “make every effort” for the LORD with the time we have left in the fields of the Master.