New Testament Lesson 48 (1 & 2 Peter)
Who Was Simon Peter?
Simon Peter, or Cephas (Aramaic “stone”), was the chief Apostle and the equivalent of the Prophet-President of the Church (Acts 1:15–22; Galatians 2:7–9). Peter directed the Apostles in their efforts to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15–26). On the day of Pentecost, Peter was the spokesman for the Apostles and Saints (Acts 2:14). He healed the lame and the sick through the power of the priesthood (Acts 3; 5:15–16). He received the revelation authorizing missionary efforts among the gentiles (Acts 10:1–11:18), and he declared the new policy regarding circumcision (Acts 15:1–29; Galatians 2:1–10).
President Spencer W. Kimball said: [Peter was] “a man who had grown perfect through his experiences and sufferings—a man with vision, a man of revelations, a man fully trusted by his Lord Jesus Christ.”1
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER
When and Where Was First Peter Written?
This letter was probably written at Rome, inasmuch as “Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13) is a scriptural designation for the wickedest city in the empire (Revelation 18:10, 21). It was written to members of the Church in Asia (Ephesus, etc., in modern-day Turkey).
The date of writing was sometime before the worst of Nero’s persecutions in AD 62 or 63 (the Roman Emperor Nero ruled from AD 54 to 68). The Apostle Paul was also in Rome at this time, and both Paul and Peter were in prison. Shortly after this epistle was written, Peter was crucified in Rome—insisting on being crucified upside down so as not to suggest that he was anywhere near as great as his Lord.
What Are First Peter’s Most Significant Contributions?
The change from tolerance to hostility provoked apprehension among the Saints throughout Asia. Therefore, the theme of this letter is: how the Saints ought to react to suffering and persecution. Peter tells the Saints of a coming “fiery trial”—an ominous warning for the days ahead.
Peter reminded the Saints that they were a “chosen generation” and “a royal priesthood.” It contains some of the most clear & revealing statements in the Bible about salvation for the dead. The Prophet Joseph Smith quoted Peter often and said of his writings: “Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the Apostles.”2
The Importance of Faith
● Faith and obedience bring salvation (1 Peter 1:2–5).
● Faith is “much more precious than gold” because it brings salvation. But our faith will be “tried with fire” (1 Peter 1:6–9).
● Prophets who testify of Christ have “enquired and searched diligently” (1 Peter 1:10–12).
A Chosen Generation
● Peter describes the Lord’s people as . . . lively “stones,” compared to the Chief Corner Stone of Christ (1 Peter 2:5, 9–10).
— A spiritual house (speaking of the Church).
— A chosen generation.
— A royal priesthood.
— A holy nation.
— The people of God.
— “A peculiar people” (v. 9) in Hebrew is from segulla, meaning “a valued property,” “a special treasure,” or “jewels.”
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: [A chosen generation is] “not those living in a particular period or age, but . . . the house of Israel both anciently, in the meridian of time, and now in these latter-days. . . . [It includes] faithful members of the Church who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ and been adopted into his family.”3
Suffering for Christ’s Sake
● The Savior set an example of righteousness despite suffering (1 Peter 2:21–25).
● We should not be afraid of persecutors and always be ready to testify with boldness but not over-bearance (1 Peter 3:12–17; compare Alma 38:10–12).
— “Buffeted” means, literally, to be “struck with fists” (1 Peter 2:19–20). If we are knocked around or suffer because of our own stupidity and sins, we won’t receive much credit. But if we suffer for doing good and endure it, that is commendable before God (D&C 54:10).
● The end of all things (for them) is coming. They must support one another in charity and be sober (1 Peter 4:7–11).
● Peter predicted “fiery trials” for Christians and urged them to be faithful (1 Peter 4:12–19). Shortly thereafter, a devastating fire burned roughly one-third of Rome, and Nero instituted a wave of persecutions and terror in the city by blaming the fire on Christians and other groups.
● We may cast all our cares upon Christ, who loves us (1 Peter 5:6–11).
Christ’s Visit to the Spirit World
● Jesus promised, “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).
● Peter said “he went and preached unto the spirits in prison,” who were those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:18–20).
● Peter said this was done so that they might have an equal opportunity for salvation (1 Peter 4:6).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Why did he [Jesus] preach to these disobedient spirits? Surely not to increase their torments, to taunt them for not accepting of his truth in the days of the prophets! . . . He took the glorious message of the gospel and proclaimed it to the dead with the promise that they, if they would obey it, should partake of its blessings.”4
● When Christ came to the Spirit World “they were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death” (D&C 138:16–18).
● Christ preached the everlasting gospel, including the doctrine of the resurrection, and the redemption of mankind from the Fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance (D&C 138:19–21).
● Christ Himself did not go among the wicked. He sent righteous spirits to preach unto them.
● Faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption in the spirit world (D&C 138:57–59).
● Early Christian literature speaks of missionary work in the spirit world:
— Hermas, whose brother was bishop in Rome, wrote in the early second century AD that Jesus’ Apostles died and then preached the name of the Son of God to those who had died before them.5
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER
When and Where Was Second Peter Written?
We cannot say with certainty where Peter wrote his second letter, but we suppose it was Rome. This letter was written to a more select audience—to Saints who had obtained the same faith in Christ as had Peter and the Apostles. Because the threat of persecution seems past (there is no mention in this letter of persecution or suffering), it is assumed that the letter falls between the Nero persecutions and the date of Peter’s death, perhaps about AD 68.
What Are Second Peter’s Most Significant Contributions?
Peter’s second epistle combines a straight-forward simplicity with a rich outpouring of the Spirit to produce words which McConkie says, “rank in grandeur and insight with those in the Vision of the degrees of glory and the sermons of the Lord himself.”6
The dominant theme in this letter is how one comes to a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter also speaks forcefully against false teachers and apostates who have arisen everywhere.
Divine Nature—The Attributes of Godliness
● They knew all things pertaining to life and godliness, as we do (2 Peter 1:1–3).
● Peter challenged them to achieve a “divine nature” (godhood) (2 Peter 1:4). This means escaping “the corruption that is in the world through lust” (v. 4).
● Peter listed the attributes of godliness: (2 Peter 1:5–7)
— Faith = Active belief.
— Virtue = Purity and goodness.
— Knowledge = Testimony.
— Temperance = Self-control.
— Patience = Ability to endure in faith.
— Godliness = Devotion, or closeness, to God.
— Brotherly love = Fellowship.
— Charity = A Christ-like life.
— Perfection = Being made perfect through Christ’s grace.
● These are important in coming to a knowledge of our Savior, which is essential to the achievement of eternal life (2 Peter 1:8–9).
Making Our Calling and Election Sure
● Peter said:”Give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
● On at least two occasions the Prophet Joseph Smith preached with this chapter (2 Peter 1) as his text, specifically on making one’s calling and election sure.7
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: [The doctrine of making one’s calling and election sure] “ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.”8
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of 2 Peter 1: “Nowhere else in ancient writ do we find the door so frankly opened to a knowledge of the course men must pursue to have their calling and election made sure.”9
● Peter referred to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, but declared that he had now received yet a further witness (2 Peter 1:16–19). (See additional material under Doctrinal Insights below.)
Some Signs of Apostasy
Earlier in the Church’s history, the greatest threat was persecution from without. The danger now seems to be apostasy from within.
● Peter warned against spurious interpretations of the scriptures (2 Peter 1:20–21).
● This had already happened with the writings of the Apostle Paul (2 Peter 3:16).
● Peter warned of false teachers who “shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord” (2 Peter 2:1–5, 9–19).
Scoffers in the Last Days
● In the last days, men will scoff at the idea of a Second Coming (2 Peter 3:3–7).
● Nevertheless, it will come “as a thief in the night” and destroy them (2 Peter 3:8–13).
● As his people, we must be diligent and worthy when that day comes (2 Peter 3:14,17–18).
What Does it Mean to Be Called?
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “To be called is to be a member of the Church and kingdom of God on earth; it is to be numbered with the Saints; . . . it is to be on the path leading to eternal life and to have the hope of eternal glory; it is to have a conditional promise of eternal life. . . . provided there is continued obedience to the laws and ordinances thereof.”10
What Does it Mean Be Elected? Who Are the “Elect”?
● The Bible Dictionary says: “Election is an opportunity for service and is both on a national and an individual basis. On a national basis the seed of Abraham carry the gospel to the world. But it is by individual faithfulness that it is done. . . . Those who are faithful and diligent in the gospel in mortality receive an even more desirable election in this life, and become the elect of God. These receive the promise of a fulness of God’s glory in eternity (D&C 84:33–41).”11
What Is the “More Sure Word of Prophecy”?
● Peter referred to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, but declared that he had now received yet a further witness (2 Peter 1:16–19).
● A person who receives a “more sure word of prophecy” knows that he or she is “sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy.” In other words, their calling and election is made sure (D&C 131:5).
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Now, wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy than to hear the voice of God saying, This is my beloved Son. . . . Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation.”12
What Does It Mean to Have Our Calling and Election Made Sure?
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “To have one’s calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father’s kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is ‘set down’ with his ‘Father in his throne.’ (Rev. 3:21).”13
What must We Do to Have Our Calling and Election Made Sure?
● The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands). . . . then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.”14
— It involves a priesthood ordinance—beyond the ordinance of eternal marriage— presumably also performed in the temple under the authority of God’s prophet.
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It is the established order of the high priesthood that we have power given unto us to seal the Saints up unto eternal life.”15
● Joseph Smith received this promise from the Lord (D&C 132:49).
● Others who have had their calling and election made sure include:
— Abraham (Genesis 22:17)
— Paul (2 Timothy 4:8)
— Alma (Mosiah 26:20)
— Nephite Twelve(3 Nephi 28:1–3)
— Mormon(Mormon 2:19)
— Moroni (Ether 12:37).
— Elder Marion G. Romney said: “In this dispensation many have received like assurances.”16
1. “Peter, My Brother,” Speeches of the Year , 1.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 301.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 3:294.
4. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:159–160.
5. Shepherd of Hermas, Similitudes 9:16, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 2:49.
6. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:325.
7. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 298–299; 303–306.
8. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149.
9. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:323.
10. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:326.
11. LDS Bible Dictionary, 662–663.
12. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 298.
13. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:330–331.
14. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 150.
15. October 1831 General conference of the Church.
16. In Conference Report, October 1965, 22.