“I intend always to remind you of these things.”—2 PET. 1:12.
SONG 127 The Sort of Person I Should Be
1. Shortly before the apostle Peter’s death, what was he inspired to do?
THE apostle Peter knew his life would soon end. During his decades of faithful service, he walked with Jesus, opened up new fields for preaching, and served as a member of the governing body. But Peter’s service was not over. In about 62-64 C.E., he was inspired to write two letters—the Bible books of 1 and 2 Peter. He expressed his hope that these letters would help Christians after his death.—2 Pet. 1:12-15.
2. Why were the letters Peter wrote so timely?
2 Peter composed his inspired letters at a time when his fellow believers were “distressed by various trials.” (1 Pet. 1:6) Wicked men were trying to introduce false teachings and unclean conduct into the congregation. (2 Pet. 2:1, 2, 14) Christians living in Jerusalem would soon face “the end of all things”—the destruction of that city and of the Jewish systems of things by Roman armies. (1 Pet. 4:7) No doubt Peter’s letters helped Christians to see what they could do to endure present trials and to prepare for future trials.b
3. Why should we examine Peter’s inspired letters?
3 Although Peter addressed his letters to the first-century Christians, Jehovah made these writings part of His Word. So we can now benefit from those letters. (Rom. 15:4) Living in a world that promotes unclean conduct, we also face trials that can make it difficult to serve Jehovah. Furthermore, we will soon experience a tribulation greater than the one that brought an end to the Jewish systems. We find some vital reminders in Peter’s two letters. These will help us to keep in expectation of Jehovah’s day, overcome fear of man, and cultivate intense love for one another. Such reminders can also help elders see how to care successfully for the needs of the flock.
KEEP IN EXPECTATION
4. As indicated at 2 Peter 3:3, 4, what could shake our faith?
4 We are surrounded by people who have no faith in Bible prophecy. Opposers may mock us because we have eagerly anticipated the end for many years. Some critics claim that it will never come. (Read 2 Peter 3:3, 4.) If we hear such comments from a householder, a workmate, or a family member, our faith could be shaken. Peter explained what can help us.
5. What will help us to keep the right perspective regarding the end of this system? (2 Peter 3:8, 9)
5 It may seem to some that Jehovah is slow to end the present wicked system. Peter’s words can help us to keep the right perspective, reminding us that Jehovah’s view of time is vastly different from that of humans. (Read 2 Peter 3:8, 9.) To Jehovah a thousand years are like one day. Jehovah is patient, not wanting any to be destroyed. When his day arrives, though, this system will end. What a privilege we have to use the time that remains to give a witness to people of all nations.
6. How do we “keep close in mind” Jehovah’s day? (2 Peter 3:11, 12)
6 Peter urges us to “keep close in mind” Jehovah’s day. (Read 2 Peter 3:11, 12.) How? We do well to meditate—every day, if possible—on the blessings of the new world. Visualize yourself taking a breath of really clean air, eating healthful food, welcoming back loved ones as they are resurrected, and teaching people who lived centuries ago about the fulfillment of Bible prophecies. Such meditation will help to keep you in expectation and protect you against becoming indifferent to the times we live in. By “having this advance knowledge” of our future, we will “not be led astray” by false teachers.—2 Pet. 3:17.
OVERCOME FEAR OF MAN
7. How could fear of man affect us?
7 As we keep close in mind Jehovah’s day, we are moved to share the good news with others. Still, in some circumstances we may hesitate to speak up. Why? We may temporarily give in to fear of man. That happened to Peter. On the night of Jesus’ trial, Peter failed to identify himself as one of Jesus’ disciples and repeatedly denied even knowing him. (Matt. 26:69-75) This same apostle, however, could later say with conviction: “Do not fear what they fear, nor be disturbed.” (1 Pet. 3:14) Peter’s words assure us that we can overcome fear of man.
8. What can help us to overcome fear of man? (1 Peter 3:15)
8 What can help us to overcome fear of man? Peter tells us: “Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts.” (Read 1 Peter 3:15.) This includes meditating on the position and the power of our Lord and King, Christ Jesus. If you feel nervous or fearful when an opportunity arises to share the good news with others, remember our King. Visualize him ruling in heaven surrounded by countless angels. Recall that he has “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth” and that he will be “with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20) Peter urges us to be “always ready” to defend our faith. Would you like to give a witness at work, at school, or in some other informal setting? Think in advance about when you might be able to do so, then prepare what you will say. Pray for courage, trusting that Jehovah will help you overcome fear of man.—Acts 4:29.
“HAVE INTENSE LOVE”
9. On one occasion, how did Peter fail to show love? (See also picture.)
9 Peter learned how to succeed in showing love. He was present when Jesus said: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another.” (John 13:34) Despite that, Peter later gave in to pressure and refused to eat with his Gentile brothers and sisters. The apostle Paul called what Peter did a “pretense,” or an act of hypocrisy. (Gal. 2:11-14) Peter accepted that correction and learned from it. In both of his letters, he emphasizes that we should not only feel love for our brothers and sisters but also show that love.
10. “Unhypocritical brotherly affection” is the result of what? Explain. (1 Peter 1:22)
10 Peter says that we should have “unhypocritical brotherly affection” for fellow worshippers. (Read 1 Peter 1:22.) Such affection is the result of “obedience to the truth.” This truth includes the teaching that “God is not partial.” (Acts 10:34, 35) We cannot obey Jesus’ command about love if we show love to some in the congregation but not to others. Granted, we may feel closer to some than to others, as did Jesus. (John 13:23; 20:2) But Peter reminds us that we should strive to have “brotherly affection”—a warm familylike attachment—for all our brothers and sisters.—1 Pet. 2:17.
11. What is involved in loving others “intensely from the heart”?
11 Peter urged us to “love one another intensely from the heart.” In this context, to love “intensely” involves stretching the limits of our natural inclination to love. For example, what if a brother offends or hurts us in some way? Our instinct may be to retaliate rather than to show love. Yet, Peter learned from Jesus that retaliation does not please God. (John 18:10, 11) Peter wrote: “Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult. Instead, repay with a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9) Allow intense love to move you to be kind and considerate even to those who may have hurt you.
12. (a) What else will intense love motivate us to do? (b) What do you want to strive to do, as illustrated in the video Preserve the Precious Gift of Unity?
12 In his first letter, Peter used the related expression “intense love.” Such love covers, not just a few sins, but “a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) Perhaps Peter recalled the lesson about forgiveness that Jesus had taught him years earlier. At the time, Peter likely believed that he was being generous when he suggested that he would forgive his brother “up to seven times.” But Jesus taught him—and us—to forgive “up to 77 times,” meaning without limit. (Matt. 18:21, 22) If you have found it hard to apply this counsel, take heart! All of Jehovah’s imperfect servants have at times struggled to forgive. The important thing now is for you to take any necessary steps to forgive your brother and to make peace with him.c
ELDERS, SHEPHERD THE FLOCK
13. What can make it challenging for elders to shepherd their brothers and sisters?
13 Peter surely never forgot what Jesus told him after his resurrection: “Shepherd my little sheep.” (John 21:16) If you are an elder, you know those instructions apply to you too. It can be challenging, though, for an elder to find the time to care for this important assignment. Elders must first care for their own families physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They also take the lead in the preaching work as well as in preparing and presenting parts at meetings, assemblies, and conventions. Some also have responsibilities as members of Hospital Liaison Committees or accept assignments with the Local Design/Construction Department. Elders are truly busy men!
14. What can motivate elders to shepherd the flock? (1 Peter 5:1-4)
14 “Shepherd the flock of God,” Peter urged his fellow elders. (Read 1 Peter 5:1-4.) If you are an elder, we know that you love your brothers and sisters and want to shepherd them. However, you may at times feel that you are so busy or so tired that you cannot fulfill that assignment. What can you do? Pour out your concerns to Jehovah. Peter wrote: “If anyone ministers, let him do so as depending on the strength that God supplies.” (1 Pet. 4:11) Your brothers and sisters may be facing problems that cannot be fully solved in this system of things. But remember that “the chief shepherd,” Jesus Christ, can help them beyond what you can do. He can do so both today and in the new world. God asks elders simply to love their brothers, to shepherd their brothers, and to become “examples to the flock.”
15. How does one elder shepherd the flock? (See also picture.)
15 William, a longtime elder, understands the importance of shepherding. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, he and his fellow elders made it a priority to contact each individual in their assigned group every week. He explains why: “Many of the brothers were home alone with their thoughts, and their thinking could quickly have turned negative.” When a fellow believer is struggling, William listens carefully to determine his or her needs and concerns. Then he finds specific resources, often videos from our website, to help the fellow servant. He notes: “Shepherding is needed now more than ever. We put forth great effort to help people to learn about Jehovah; we need to make a similar effort to shepherd the flock, helping Jehovah’s sheep remain in the truth.”
ALLOW JEHOVAH TO FINISH YOUR TRAINING
16. In what ways might we apply lessons we have learned from Peter’s letters?
16 We have discussed only a few lessons from Peter’s two inspired letters. Perhaps you have noted an area in which you want to improve. For example, would you like to meditate more often on the blessings to come in the new world? Have you set the goal of witnessing at work, at school, or in some other informal setting? Do you see ways in which you could show intense love for your brothers and sisters more fully? Elders, are you determined to shepherd Jehovah’s sheep willingly and eagerly? An honest self-examination may reveal that you have certain weaknesses, but do not be discouraged. “The Lord is kind,” and he will help you to improve. (1 Pet. 2:3) Peter assures us: “God . . . will himself finish your training. He will make you firm, he will make you strong, he will firmly ground you.”—1 Pet. 5:10.
17. If we persevere and allow ourselves to be trained by Jehovah, what will be the result?
17 Peter once felt unworthy to be in the presence of God’s Son. (Luke 5:8) But with the loving support of Jehovah and of Jesus, Peter persevered as a follower of Christ. Peter thus was approved to gain “entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:11) What a reward! If you persevere as Peter did and allow yourself to be trained by Jehovah, you too will receive the reward of everlasting life. You will “attain the goal of your faith, your salvation.”—1 Pet. 1:9.
SONG 109 Love Intensely From the Heart
a In this article, we will see how lessons learned from Peter’s letters can help us to endure trials. Also, elders will be helped to see how they can fulfill their responsibility as shepherds.
b Likely, Christians living in Palestine received both of Peter’s letters before the initial attack on Jerusalem in 66 C.E.