Our Mission Begins in the Mirror: Soul-Winning in 2 Peter 3

Peter claims in 2 Peter 3:1 to be writing a “second epistle.” Assuming that the first epistle is in fact the one we know as 1 Peter, he writes 2 Peter, “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). 1 Peter makes it clear that these Christians lived in an incredibly antagonistic environment and were facing trials because of it (e.g., 1:6-7; 2:12; 3:16-17; 4:12-13). By the time of the second epistle, the church was on the eve of even more trials from false teachers within the church (2 Peter 2:1-19) and from scoffers outside of the church (3:3-4). What did Christians living in such a difficult environment need to focus on?

In 2007, I made a short-term mission trip to Australia. The leadership at one of the congregations I worked with met with me and expressed a desire for me to move to Australia and work with them full time. One of the men there had me into his home for a meal, and asked me, “If you came here and didn’t win a single soul to the Lord but kept the church faithful, would you feel you had succeeded?” He qualified the question by explaining how difficult of an environment Australia was for Christians. My mind ran to the example of Noah saving only his family, and I said, “Yes.” Yet, when I returned to that congregation almost two years later to work with them full time, that man had sadly left both the Lord and his family. While it’s important to acknowledge the difficulties an environment creates for evangelism, it’s perhaps even more important to acknowledge the difficulty an environment creates for me.

Peter’s audience wasn’t exempt from evangelism. Peter alludes to the evangelistic effort expected of Christians everywhere when he said, “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2). The prophets had laid a foundation of faith for the Christian church and the apostles had added to it (Ephesians 2:20). The expectation of the New Testament is for individuals to take up these words and continue to build on this foundation.

Though this expectation cannot have been far from his mind, the aim of Peter in stirring up their minds (2 Peter 3:1) and encouraging them to “be mindful of the words” was not to encourage them in evangelism or even to prepare them for failure in evangelism. His aim was to equip them for the coming of Jesus. He did this by describing their opposition (3:3-4), defeating this opposition’s arguments (3:4-6), affirming the truth (3:7-8), and then defending that truth (3:9-10). Even still, Peter’s focus is not really the opponents, but the faithful; he tells them to remain faithful in light of what he has just said (3:11-13).

The chapter’s conclusion is not very different than what came before it. Peter encourages them again to reflect upon the truth he has just taught and even to compare it with what they’ve learned from Paul (3:14-15). In saying this, he knows that some people misunderstand Paul and even actively distort his teachings (3:16). However, again, his hope is not for them to persuade these individuals or even to stand against their efforts but to “beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness” (3:17) and finally to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18).

Churches that never look outward are destined to die, and in some ways, the best offense against the false teachers and scoffers is to go on the offensive and try to win more souls for Jesus. At the same time, anyone convinced of the reality of apostacy and active opponents to the Christian faith ought to be actively guarding his heart. When an airplane cabin depressurizes and its oxygen masks descend, the encouragement is, “Put on your mask before you help others.” Before Christians can try to save this perverse generation, they have to save themselves (Acts 2:40 KJV, ASV, ESV).
-Patrick Swayne  






1 Corinthians 12 1 Corinthians 14:15 1 Corinthians 14 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 1 Corinthians 7 1 Peter 1:6-12 1 Peter 3 1 Peter 5:6-7 1 Peter 1 Samuel 4 1 Thessalonians 5:18 2 Corinthians 6 2 John 1:9 2 John 9 2 Kings 2 Peter 2 2 Peter 3 2 Peter 2 Samuel Abel Absalom Acts 17 Acts 19 Acts 2 Acts 8 Acts Alcohol Alleged Contradictions Apostles Ark of the Covenant Attitude Authority Autonomy Autumn Balance Baptismal Regeneration Baptism Barnabas Benevolence Bible Contradictions Bible Questions and Answers Bible Study Bible Biblical Interpretation Bishop Borrowing Cain and Abel Cain Calvinism Catholicism Catholic Challenges Children Christian Living Christmas Church Funds Church Leadership Church Membership Church Circumspection Citations Colossians 3:16 Communication Communion Community Confidence Congregations Contend for the Faith Contentment Covetousness Creation Credit Current Events Dating David Debt Forgivness Deconstruction Degrees of Punishment Deliverance Denominationalism Devil Difference Different Discipleship Doctrine Dragon Drinking Easter Ecclesiastes 7:10 Ecclesia Eldership Elders Elder Elijah Elisha Encouragement Enoch Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:18 Ephesians 5:19 Ephesians 5:5 Ephesians 5 Esther 4:14 Evangelism Ezekiel 36 Ezekiel 6 Faith Alone Faith Only Faithfulness Faith Fall False Teachers False Teaching Fathers Fear Feeding of the 5000 Fornication Free Will Fundamentals Galatians 4:9-10 Gender Roles Generosity Genesis 4 Genesis Gift of Tongues Gifts Giving Gospel Meeting Gospel Grace Gratitude Greater Sin Greed Grief Grieving Hallelujah Praise Jehovah Hallelujah Help Hermeneutics Holidays Husbands Hymns Hypotheticals Idolatry Imperatives Influence Insomnia Instrumental Music Instruments in Worship Intertextuality Isaiah 2 James 1:19 James 1:27 James 1 James Jehovah Witnesses Jehovah Jerome Jesus Temptation Jesus' Deity Jesus\' Deity Jesus Job John 11 John 19:11 John 4:24 John Calvin John the Baptist Jude 1:11 Jude 3 Jude Judgement Judging Judgment Kindness Lamech Lazarus Leadership Leaven Lemuel Lending Levites Limited Atonement Local Church Lord's Supper Luke 1:28 Luke 5:1-11 Mariolatry Mark 1:12-13 Mark Marriage Martin Luther Mary Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 5:3-12 Matthew 5 Matthew 7:1 Melchizedek Men's Business Meeting Men\'s Business Meeting Men\\\'s Business Meeting Men Metaphors Minor Prophets Miracles Miraculous Gifts Money Mormonism Mothers Mountain of the Lord's House Mountains of Israel Mountains Murder Music Mutual Submission No Elders Non-Denominational Once Saved Always Saved Parenting Pastor Patience Pattern Paul Peace Pentecostalism Persecution Perseverence Perspective Philippians 4:6 Plagiarism Poetic Language Politics Prayer Praying to Saints Praying Pray Preacher Preaching Priesthood Priests Proverbs 31:6 Proverbs Providence Psalm 148 Quotations Reader Response Redeeming the Time Relationships Relationship Religion Remission of Sins Restoration Movement Restoration Revelation 12:9 Riches Roman Catholic Church Romans 12:10 Romans 12:15 Saints Only Salvation Satan Scarecrows Sermon on the Mount Serving Others Sexual Sin Silence of the Scriptures Singing Sin Sleep Sobriety Song Studies Sons Sovereignty of God Spending Spirit and Truth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Leadership Stephen Stress Student Debt Submission Suffering Temptations Thankfulness The Beatitudes The Problem of Pain and Suffering The Problem of Suffering The Way of Cain The Way Tongue Speaking Total Hereditary Depravity Tradition Trials Types and Antitypes Uncleanness Unconditional Election Understanding Unity Unknown Tongue Vulgate Wealth William Kirkpatrick Wives Women in the Church Women's Roles Word Study Work Worship Zechariah death sickness