On Wednesday evening, February 5, we will begin a new series on the book of 2 Peter. This book shows how the grace of God transforms us into the image of Christ and empowers us to live faithful lives, even in the midst of difficulty. It exhorts us to grow spiritually, to beware of false teachers, and to be diligent in our preparation for the Lord’s return.
Our main objective for this study will be to understand the message of 2 Peter and to apply it to our lives. A secondary objective will be to become more familiar with the discipline of studying the bible. Ideally, we will each study the same passage each week and come together to discuss it. However, for some it may not be possible to do much study outside of class. If that is true of you, don’t let it prevent you from joining us. You will still be able to glean much from our discussions.
Each week, in each passage we study, we will have four objectives:
1. Observe the text. “What does the text say?”
2. Interpret the text. “What does the text mean by what it says?”
3. Apply the text. “What does the text require of me?”
4. Obey the text. “What practical steps do I need to take to be obedient to the text?”
Our first order of business in the series will be to do a thorough overview of 2 Peter. In my opinion, the overview is the most important component of studying the Bible, and yet, it is the most often neglected component. It is natural to want to start digging into the first verse right way. However, when we do that without getting a feel for the book as a whole, we can make serious errors in interpretation.
Context is king, so we must understand the context before we look closely at the particulars. If you have been with us for long in our Sunday morning study of Matthew, you know that we often take a step back from our weekly text to be reminded of the larger context. Without doing that, we are in danger of completely misunderstanding the message of any given passage. For that reason, we’ll spend a week or two gaining a familiarity with the whole book of 2 Peter. The first step in doing an overview is to simply read the book in its entirety repetitively. There are only 3 chapters in 2 Peter, so this is very manageable. I would encourage you to try to read through the book several times between now and the beginning of the series on Feb 5.
After reading through the text a few times, you can start reading it looking for specific things. Here are the main things we want to discover when we do an overview:
1. Author – What can we learn about the author? Of course, we know that Peter wrote the book, but does he say anything about himself? (Look for 1st person pronouns – I, me, my.) Can we glean anything from the text about his circumstances or why he is writing the book?
2. Recipients – Who are they? Where are they? What are their circumstances? The circumstances of the author and recipients of an epistle will be valuable clues to the purpose and themes of the book. What do you learn about them?
3. Occasion – What is the issue or situation that has prompted the writing of the book? Peter is writing for a reason. He is addressing a specific need or issue. We call that issue or situation “the occasion.” Finding the occasion is like listening to one side of a phone conversation. By paying attention to what Peter writes, we need to try to determine what is being said on the other line, so to speak. Why is Peter writing what he is writing?
3. Key words – After reading the text a few times, you will start to notice words that are used repeatedly in the book. What are they? Make a list of these. You can even mark them in a distinctive way in your Bible, if you like. Write down everything you learn about these key words. The reason we look for key words is because words represent subject matter. These subjects lead us to the main themes.
4. Themes – What seems to be the key content in the book? What issues are addressed? What exhortations are made? What rebukes? You can make a list of these as well.
Our goal at the end of the overview is to be able to answer in one short sentence what the book is about. It is time-consuming work, but what a treasure to become more familiar with the text of God’s Word and to be changed by it. May the Lord bless the fruit of this our study together.
Again, the new study begins Wednesday, Feb 5 at 6:30 next door at Partners in Prime. I hope to see you there!