How to Study the Bible

Lesson #04
Peter's introduction to the subject


        The second letter that Peter wrote is a good starting point for learning how to view the Bible. Peter was near the end of his life, and he was concerned about what would happen to the church after he was dead. Peter knew that the Christians had been properly taught, but he also knew how easily people forget things, and how easy it is for false teachers to twist the truth. Peter decided that the church did not need to be taught new things, but it did need a reminder of what were the most important issues in their lives, and where they could find a reliable source of information when they want to learn more.  He mentions several topics that will be covered in more depth later.

Why do we have a written text:

        The Christians that received Peter's letter had an advantage over us today:  they could talk with people who had personally met Jesus when he was on earth.  But as Peter's death became closer, Peter  realized that the church would not always have eyewitnesses available, and so he sends a letter as a substitute for his personal presence as a teacher.  The letter was to be a reminder of what they had been taught verbally, which means that Peter wrote down part of what he taught.  Peter intended that this letter, and a previous one, to trigger memories and to stimulate thinking.  (2 Peter 1:12-15;   2 Peter 3:1)

How can we know that the message is reliable:

        One concern of  Peter is has is that we have a mixture of information available to us.  God has provided the information we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but others are trying to distort the information and lead people away from God (2 Peter 2:1-3).  Once we find that part of the message is false we naturally become concerned that any of the message is reliable.   Peter gives us several reasons to believe that we have God's word.   First he says that our information about Jesus was written when it was current news.  Peter says that he was not tricked into believing a clever story, since he personally saw the supernatural glory of Jesus (2 Peter 1:16-18).  Peter also talks about the prophets who provided messages from God to the Jews.  He says that the Holy Spirit was personally acting in their lives to insure that the message reflected the thoughts of God and not the thoughts of men (2 Peter 1:20-21).   Knowing the source of our information, and that God is active in insuring its accuracy, allows us to be confident that the message is reliable.

Where is a reliable source of information:

        Peter wanted his readers to remember what the eyewitnesses told them about Jesus, but then he also suggested that there were several other important sources of God's truth.  The first place he sent them to was the Jewish Bible, which preserved the messages God had given through the prophets (2 Peter 1:19,  3:2).   He mentioned that Jesus gave a lot of instruction while he was on earth, and that the apostles passed this on to the people (2 Peter 3:2).   He also mentions that while Paul's writings are sometimes hard to understand, God had given him wisdom to pass on to the church  (2 Peter 3:16).
        The Jews had a concept of scripture, which were writings accepted by them as having a message authorized by God.  Peter expands on that concept, and indicates that the writings of Paul, the apostles and some early Christians should now be considered a part of scripture  (2 Peter 3:16).

What is the core of the Biblical message:

        The core of the message starts with an eternal God who wants to form relationships with people that last for an eternity (2 Peter 1:11,   3:9).   The problem with this is that mankind is not very good and building relationships and making them last.  God's solution to this is that we take on the nature of God and turn away from the types of behavior which destroy us and others (2 Peter 1:3-4, 9).
        Another part of the core message is that God has given us the right to chose how we want to live.  God does not force us to like or obey him.  But there is a catch: God does not allow us to escape the consequences of our choice of lifestyle (2 Peter 2:4-10, 20-21,   3:7-13).  Part of the consequence we can see in our daily lives when relationships are damaged or broken.  But part of the consequence is eternal.  God has chosen to live eternally with those who chose to be a part of his family, and chose to obey him and to mold our character to be like his (2 Peter 3:11-13).  But he has also chosen to remove people from his presence if they refuse to take on his character.  We have a choice, but we cannot pick the consequences.


  1. The printed Bible is a substitute for the personal testimony of eyewitnesses, and captures their teachings
  2. Our information about Jesus comes from Eyewitnesses
  3. The Holy Spirit insured that the Prophets spoke God's thoughts
  4. Reliable source of truth:  Jewish prophets, teachings of Jesus, teachings of the apostles, writings of Paul.  These make up our Bible.
  5. God wants a relationship with everyone, but he accepts only those who chose to live like him

Last Update:    11/03/2002
Copyright (c) 1998, 2002 by Bruce J. Butterfield. All Rights Reserved.