If possible it is always important to know why a particular letter was written. Having this information in mind as one interprets the various portions of the letter allows the student of God’s word to better see the overall purpose of the various sections that make up the correspondence. The letter of 2 Peter, like 1 Peter, provides us with a clear statement as to its purpose.
Peter’s Statement of Purpose
Peter states why he is writing this second correspondence in 2 Peter 3:1-3. He states, “This is the second letter I’m writing to you, loved ones. In both of them I am waking up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior given through the apostles, knowing this of first importance, that scoffers will come.”
Peter’s goal in writing is to wake up the minds of his readers. In 1 Peter he woke up the minds of his readers with regards to suffering and God’s grace (read more here). In 2 Peter he is waking up the minds of his readers with regards to the existence of “scoffers” (false teachers cf. 2:1) and the need to follow apostolic teaching.
Peter is close to death (1:12-14). This fact leads him to send this final letter to a group of churches in Northern Galatia. Peter worries about their future. He knows what is about to happen. The church is about to face internal strife. This strife will come “among you” (2:1). It will be caused by those in intimate fellowship with the church (2:13). The source of this strife will be false teaching led by an ungodly group of false teachers.
The circumstance of this writing therefore is the future infiltration of false teachers in the church. They will bring in heresies. Peter’s concern, it appears, is not as much for the teachers themselves, but for the church, because Peter fears that “many will follow” these men (2:2) Following these men with result in sharing the fate of these “brute beasts” who are meant for destruction (2:12). Thus Peter’s concern is that the Christians in this region do not fall prey to false teachers and face God’s judgment.
As Peter stated in the purpose sentence of the book (3:1-3), his solution to the problem is to “remind” the Christians of things they already know. Specifically he seeks to remind them of three truths:
1. The qualities of a Christian that they already know (1:12). This refers to 2 Peter 1:5-8, which is a list of qualities that are commonly called the “Christian graces.” Peter states if we add these qualities to our lives that we will “never stumble.” These qualities will keep Christians from following the hedonistic teachings of the scoffers.
2. That the teachings of the Apostles and Prophets came from God (1:20) The teaching of the prophets and apostles had their source from God (better translation of interpretation in this verse). God provided them with their message and ensured the truthfulness of the message by the guiding power of the Holy Spirit (1:21).
3. False teachers will emerge (3:3). It is the sad fact of Christian history that even at the Earliest stages of the church false teachers emerged. The church needed to be warned of such so that they did not leave apostolic truth (given by God) and follow a path of destruction.