Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ… (2 Peter 1:1a)
The text begins with the name of the sender, Simeon Peter. Simeon and Simon are the same name, spelled differently. Why is it Simeon here? Partly because Peter’s first language was Aramaic, and he wrote it in the Aramaic script without vowel pointing. When translating it to Greek, with its vowels, he was not always consistent in his style. Remember that standardization in spelling, especially with regard to names, is something of a recent development in language.
Simon was the foremost of the twelve apostles, who played a key leadership role once Christ had ascended. A Galilean fisherman, he was not the scholar or logician that Paul was, but his humbling experience walking with Jesus gave him a unique perspective that comes through in his letters. He emphasizes here from the start his status as a servant (literally, a slave), one possessed completely by another, one completely dependent upon and loyal to another. This word servant connotes humility, servitude, possession, and dependence.
Yet, even though a servant, he is also an apostle. A “sent one,” sent by Christ to bring the glorious gospel of salvation to the world. The apostles were a specific and select group of New Testament believers who had been personally commissioned by, and had seen with their own eyes, the risen Christ in the flesh (1 Cor. 9:1). These qualifications were unique and non-transferable; there is no biblical evidence for apostolic succession. They were the inspired leaders of the early church. Peter’s qualification, in the context, of “apostle” with “servant” is not to take anything away from the authority of his office, but to communicate to his readers that his exercise of the office was for the benefit of Christ and not himself.
He is a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. He belonged to Christ, because he had been purchased by him with a price. He belonged to Christ and no other. Whatever his other obligations and relationships, that with Christ was primary and pre-eminent.
What does this mean for us today?
We, like Peter, are slaves of Christ. We are possessed by him, body and soul; we owe everything to him, and are completely dependent upon him. Rest upon him, brothers and sisters; lean your weight upon him and listen to his words. Do what he says, for as he says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This obedience, like that of a slave, is to be immediate, unquestioning, and total. If we do not, we will answer to our master – who is also our Judge.
God has instituted other authorities in our lives, and the foremost such authority for the Christian is apostolic authority. We are subject to the apostles God has ordained. Now as this office was in the early church alone and is non-transferable, it is today exercised over us in the modern church through the writings of the Holy Scriptures. The New Testament writings are apostolic writings and carry apostolic authority; this is why they carry the authority of Scripture and are equivalent in authority to the Old Testament. So read your Bible and heed your Bible. Know it and do what it says.