2 Peter 3:14-16 ~ 20100321 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/21 2 Peter 3:14-16 Diligent Waiting
3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Peter addresses us four times in this closing section as 'beloved'. He knows he is soon to die and wants to give us a permanent written record as a constant reminder of the good news of the life-transforming grace of God toward rebellious sinners like us. He wants to communicate his love for us by reminding us and informing us and encouraging us and warning us. He reminds us of the predictions of the holy prophets (which we now know as the Old Testament) and the commandment of our Lord and Savior through your apostles (which would come to be known as the New Testament). The prophetic writings and the apostolic record of the teaching of Jesus both warn of scoffers that will come in the last days. We were amply warned - it should not take us by surprise when people mock or challenge or question or doubt our Christian worldview. Peter records their unbelieving question 'Where is the promise of his coming?'
And his first response to this accusation is that these ones who are seeking to make room in their religion to follow their own lust are ignorant. They are ignorant of their bibles, of world history and geology. They think God won't judge the world because things have gone on without interruption as long as anyone can remember. They miss the fact that there are marine fossils on the tops of the highest mountains. If they study their geology or read their history they will realize that God once before wiped out life on the planet because of sin, and he promises he will do it again.
The second line of argument Peter lays out is challenging their interpretation of the apparent delay. We cannot demand that God abide by our time schedule, and it is a dreadful misinterpretation of the delay to assume that God is lazy, doesn't care, and lacks the power to fulfill his promises. Instead, God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. God is merciful even toward these false teachers, giving them time to repent and turn back to the Master who bought them, the Master they have denied by their rebellious lifestyles.
Then Peter points us to the coming destruction. God is merciful to postpone his wrath, but he will not do so forever. Judgment is coming and those who presume on his mercy are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of his wrath. He challenges us to reverse-engineer our lives in light of the coming destruction.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
If everything will burn up and everything we have ever thought or felt or done will be made public then what kind of life should I live? The question is not 'what should I do?'; the question he asks is 'what sort of people ought we to be?' We are so eager to define ourselves by what we do. I've got a good job, I'm involved in the community, I serve in the church, I play this, I do this, I work here, I am advancing in... God is not at all impressed with what you do. God is interested in who you are. God is interested in character. God is interested in holiness. Not a list of do's and don'ts, but a life set apart to follow Jesus. God is interested in godliness - a life characterized by worship, putting God first in everything.
In the next verses, Peter encourages us to diligent waiting. He says that our lives should be characterized by waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. He says it three times. The Christian life is a life of waiting. "Waiting for the day of God... waiting for a new heavens and a new earth... therefore beloved, since you are waiting for these..." We wait because God has made promises and not all of them have been fleshed out yet. God has promised that he will wipe away every tear and heal every disease and make all wrongs right and put a stop to evil and bring perfect peace and harmony and uninterrupted intimacy with him. But we live in a place with pain and sickness and separation and despair and violence and greed and pride. Beloved, we are not home yet! Peter told us in his first letter that we are strangers and aliens. We shouldn't feel comfortable, we don't fit in, we are not home yet. All those blessings are coming to believers, justice will roll down like a river, and all evil will be put to an end. But we are not there yet! We are waiting for and hastening the day of God. We are waiting for the new heavens and new earth. Beloved, this is not all there is! It gets better than this. Paul said:
Romans 8:18-22 For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Jesus promised "I go to prepare a place for you" "and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (Jn.14:2-3). Beloved, we get to be with Jesus!
1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, "what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"
What God has promised us is beyond our ability to comprehend. The Christian life is a life characterized by waiting, but we are not called to passive waiting. Waiting does not mean 'I'm just going to sit here on this couch and push this button on the remote and while away the meanwhile passing the time until Jesus comes back. We are not called to passive, inactive, complacency in waiting. This word describes eager expectation, hope, anticipation, longing. This is not the tedious waiting in the dentist's office; this is the eager anticipation of the child on Christmas eve.
Peter says that because we are waiting for a place where righteousness is at home, our waiting is to be characterized by diligence. This is now the third time Peter has used this word 'diligence'.
1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
1:15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Peter had described the false teachers as 'blots and blemishes' (2:13), and in his first letter he points us to our ransom which came through " ...the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (1Pet.1:19). Now, our waiting for Jesus' return is to be characterized by a passionate pursuit of holiness and godliness, or to put it another way, we are to be diligent to put Jesus on display with our lives, Jesus who is our hope and peace and righteousness, Jesus who is without blemish or spot.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, ...
Diligent waiting requires proper accounting. The false teachers who followed their own desires assumed that the delay in the fulfillment of God's promises meant that God was not faithful to his promises, not powerful enough to carry them out, not just to punish sin. So they encouraged a pursuit of passion and pleasure because they interpreted the delay as evidence that there would be no final accountability for our actions. But we are to wait differently. We are to wait diligently pursuing righteousness, because we count the delay a different way. We count it not as a delay due to slackness, but as God's patience which is salvation. This is what Peter was telling us in verse 9, that God:
"is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2Pet.3:9
The patience of the Lord is salvation. God is not slack, lazy, uninvolved. God is at work pouring out mercy on sinners. God is at work saving people. God is right now rescuing sinners from their sin and transforming them into new creations that find joy in his righteousness.
And Peter here supports his interpretation of the delay of the promise by pointing to his unity with the apostle Paul. Apparently, Peter knew that Paul had written a letter to his readers, in which he had also addressed some of these same issues. I thank God for this sentence.
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
This is an amazing sentence. Here we are given insight into how we are to think about our bible. And even more than that it gives us insight into the relationship between two of the foundational people in the Christian church.
Before Jesus was born, the Jews had their collection of scriptures, which included the same books that we now have in our Old Testament. Jesus quoted out of it on many occasions and referred to it as a whole as authoritative. It was the authoritative witness to who he is. “It is written” would settle any argument. Before Jesus went to his death, he promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, who would "teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn.14:26). Jesus sent his disciples out to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mat.28:19-20). The apostles believed that their teaching was God's very word (1Thess2:13). As the disciples spread the gospel and planted churches in the different communities, they would write letters to encourage and teach and correct these churches. Some of these letters were expressly intended to be passed around to the different churches so that all could benefit from them (Col.4:16). Peter told us in chapter 1 that he was writing in order to leave a written record to remind future believers of the truth. These apostolic letters were highly valued and copied and shared among the churches. Peter had read several of Paul's letters and probably had access to a growing collection of his letters there in Rome. He here makes reference to how Paul writes in all his letters. And Peter classifies Paul's writings as Scripture. He says that Paul is a beloved brother and that he wrote according to the wisdom given him. Peter recognized a God given gift of wisdom in the writings of the Apostle Paul. What he says here about Paul is very similar to what he says about the Old Testament prophets.
2 Peter 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
He says the way the false teachers distort Paul's writings is like the way they handle the other Scriptures, equating Paul's writings with the rest of the God-breathed Old Testament Scriptures.
This is even more fascinating when we remember that there was a serious dispute between Peter and Paul. Paul records it in his letter to the Galatians:
Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
So Paul publicly confronted Peter – to his face – in front of everybody. He accused him of fear, hypocrisy, and a serious deviation from the truth of the Gospel. And then he recorded the whole thing in a letter – likely one of the letters that Peter had read and referred to when he spoke of 'all his letters' – a letter that would be circulated and preserved for all to see.
How does Peter respond to this? The apostle Peter was teachable. He received a rebuke from Paul, learned from it, and loved him for it. He rejoiced in their unity. He read Paul's stuff. He read it not to critique it, but to learn from it. He studied it. He acknowledged that some of it was difficult to understand. The apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus, had difficulty understanding some of the things that Paul had written. He did not say that they were impossible to understand. That should encourage us in our study of scripture. We must maintain humility in acknowledging that we do not have everything figured out. But we don't throw up our hands in despair and quit. You study to 'present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2Tim.2:15). He also did not say that all things are hard to understand. Some things are easy. As Alistair Begg likes to say 'the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things'. The core message of the bible is plain and clear. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for the glory of God alone is the good news proclaimed throughout the scriptures. Some things are hard to understand, but the most important things are plain and clear.
Peter is not here talking about things in the scriptures that are hard to swallow. Have you ever been reading your bible and you get to a verse or phrase and your heart says 'I understand it, but I don't like it'. Some things are clear in scripture but we'd prefer they weren't there. We'd like to find a way around them. Our job in handling the bible is to do our best to understand it and obey it. We are not at liberty to attempt to explain it away. Peter tells us that 'the ignorant and unstable twist the scriptures to their own destruction'. Ignorant does not mean stupid - it means that they were untaught - not trained or discipled in how to rightly understand the bible. And he calls them 'unstable'. This is what Peter is fighting against throughout the letter - he wants us to be well-grounded, stable,
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
2 Peter 2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!
2 Peter 3:16 ...There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
The word 'twist' is a word commonly used for torture on the rack - false teachers torture the words of the bible to get them to say things they do not say. One of the most basic rules of biblical interpretation is 'if the common sense interpretation makes sense, seek no other sense, lest you create nonsense'. And there are consequences to twisting the scriptures. Distorting God's word to condone lifestyles that are condemned in the scripture will result in destruction. Exchanging God's grace for works or changing God's grace into license to sin both will bring eternal ruin to those that reject God's transforming grace for what it is. We are called to listen to the scriptures, to humbly study and learn from the scriptures, to hear God's word, to embrace it, to love it, meditate on it, memorize it, to obey it, to be transformed by it. We are to be stable or established by growing in grace and the knowledge of our King and Savior Jesus Christ.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.