And that brings us to:
F I R S T P E T E R
Peter is one of the best known Bible characters. He and his brother Andrew, along with James and John were partners in a fishing business when Jesus called them to be “fishers of men” (Luke 5:9-11).
Peter writes to the churches in Asia Minor (1:1) which had been established by the apostle Paul and who were on the verge of a terrible persecution. Nero began his persecution of Christians in about 64 A.D. at which time he encouraged their persecution not only in Rome proper, but throughout the Roman Empire. It was very common in the first Century to find the church of Christ undergoing persecution, sometimes at the hand of local officials, at other times at the hand of the Roman Government. First Peter was probably written in about 64-66 A.D..
First Peter tells us that being a Christian often brings problems, it was certainly true for the First Century Christians, and they were about to face a “fiery trial” which would demonstrate to all their sincerity in Christ. The persecution was going to be so severe that many would doubt their salvation. To them Peter wrote:
1 Pet. 1:10-13
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, they were reminded to be obedient children and be holy, remain strong, feed on the Word of God like newborn babes, remember their place in God’s plan as a Chosen people, live in imitation of Christ’s example under persecution and keep fervent in their love for the cause of Christ.
Listen to these words:
1 Pet. 5:6 – 7
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Important teachings in First Peter include: Trials will come to all faithful Christians, but they will not take away your salvation, Christ is our Example in times of Persecution, What Godly Living does in difficult times, How to serve God willingly.
And that brings us to:
S E C O N D P E T E R
Second Peter is written shortly after First Peter to warn the now severely persecuted church of Christ against Apostasy. Most of the Epistles are addressed to some locality, not so with Second Peter.
2 Pet. 1:1-3
1:1 ¶ Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
God’s Word has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” How could that be true with an incomplete revelation?
Second Peter begins by reviewing the virtues necessary to keep from stumbling and then a reminder of the inspiration of God’s Holy Word.
2 Pet. 1:19-21
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
By this time in the first Century False Teaching was everywhere (like it is today), and therefore Peter warns of the consequences of accepting False Doctrine. He writes:
2 Pet. 2:21-22
21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and,
“A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
Peter reminds us that the passing of time does not hinder the purpose of God, the Second Coming will occur precisely when God plans to bring it about in spite of the teachings of the False Teachers, therefore Christians must be people of holy conduct and godliness.
Important teachings in Second Peter include: Christian Virtues, Warnings about False Teachers, The Second Coming, A new Heaven and a New Earth.
And that brings us to:
F I R S T J O H N
Although First, Second and Third John do not identify the author, long standing tradition based on internal evidence points to the Apostle John.
Consider the opening verses:
1 John 1:1-3
1:1 ¶ What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–
2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–
3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Remember the opening of John’s Gospel?
1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It is likely that the apostle John wrote First John near the close of the first Century, A.D. 90-95.
By this time the church was facing dangers from both outside the church and inside the church. First John is a warning against false teachers in the church.
False teaching was prevalent. Several groups are evident.
Judaizers – probably the “best known” false teachers of the first Century (c.f. Acts 15). Galatians, Romans and Hebrews were written to combat the error of the Judaizers who proclaimed that all must obey the Law of Moses as well as the New Covenant.
Docetics – taught that Christ’s body was a mere phantom because matter was evil therefore Christ could NOT have had a real body.
Gnostics – Believed they were the possessor’s of “higher-knowledge” gained from a few “sages” (like the ‘Kabbalah’ sages of the 21st Century). Gnosticism was a mixture of paganism and corrupt Christianity. It was mystical (transcending human understanding) and metaphysical (based on excessively abstract reasoning).
Nicolatians – While it is very clear what the Judiazer, the Docetics and the Gnostics taught in specific, it is more difficult to identify exactly what the Nicolatians believed. Apparently they sought to work out some kind of a compromise between true New Testament Christianity and Paganism which would allow Christians to take part in some of the social and religious activities of their culture without embarrassment.
The church Historian Eusebius identifies the sect of the Nicolatians as coming from “Nicholas of Antioch” one of the deacons appointed by the apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor (Acts 6). (Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesia, Book III, Chapter 29). Some believe that this extremist group promoted asceticism and denied all earthly pleasures in order to gain control over the flesh.
Greek scholars point out that “Nicolatians” comes from two Greek words “nikos” (conquer) and “laos” (people), which can mean “conquer the people.” The word Balaam (used in Revelation) is a Hebrew word meaning “not of the people” or “destroy the people.” Some have suggested that perhaps Nicolatians and Balaam mean the same thing in Greek and Hebrew, so they may represent false prophets who infiltrated the church to destroy through idolatry and sexual immorality.
The point being, for our purposes, it’s not Christianity plus something that pleases God, it’s New Testament Christianity period. We must “walk in the light”
1 John 1:6-7
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Important teachings in First John include: Jesus is the Son of God and our Advocate, Walk in Obedience, The recognition and confession of sin, Righteous Living, Love for one another, and warnings against false teachers and the Antichrist.