During our study of 2 Peter, we have learned many things from the apostle Peter. He has shown us our need to work on our spiritual health (1:3-15), trust the Scriptures (1:6-2:3), recognize the perils of wickedness (2:4-22), and live with the future in mind (3:1-18). Throughout the epistle, he has been preparing us for a dangerous future. While we don’t know what all of those dangers will be, he encourages us that spiritual believers will be ready for them. Now, as he closes his epistle (3:14-18), Peter gives four imperatives which will help each of us to be ready.
Therefore, beloved ones, expecting these things, make every effort to be found spotless and blameless in him in peace, and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul writes to you, according to the wisdom given to him. As also in all his epistles speaking in them concerning these things, in which are things difficult to undersand, which the ignorant and unstable twist (as also the rest of the Scripture) to their own destruction. You, therefore, beloved, knowing beforehand, guard yourself, that you might not lose your own firm stance, being led away by the error of the lawless. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
These four imperatives translate into the four major points of our outline:
Prepare for Christ’s return (14).
Peter’s “therefore” reminds us of what we studied earlier in the chapter. The Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly and will culminate in the the destruction of the planet. Knowing that should cause us to live with a different perspective. Our lives should not be centered around temporal things. Instead we should be preparing for what will take place.
The prophecies will be fulfilled.
Many times in the gospels and Paul’s epistles, we are encouraged to be ready for Christ’s return. Jesus himself promised to come again for us. He likened himself to a ruler who left his servants with responsibilities while he went on a long trip (Luke 19:11-27). Those passages and others like them remind us that our Lord will return (see 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Our character will be evident.
As Christians, we believe that these promises are true and will be fuilfilled some day. And that knowledge of future events ought to cause us to act accordingly. Knowing that Christ could return today should cause us to examine the way we are using our time. Are we living a spotless and blameless life while we await his coming? This ought to be our motive for pure living. If Jesus came back today, I want to be found to be spotless and blameless. In other words, Peter says, “at peace with him.” There should be nothing in my life at any time that would remove that peace I have with God.
How can we do that? We are to give diligence or make every effort to make sure this happens in our own lives. This may take some removal of fleshly habits. If television, radio, internet, magazines, novels, friends, activities, restaurants, clubs, relationships, or any other things are causing you to become unclean and out of fellowship with the Lord, what should you do? You ought to remove those things so that they do not interfere with what really matters. Sure, it will be difficult. But what are you living for? Are you tied down to the things of life or are you looking forward to the new heavans and earth where righteousness is the main thing? You have two choices. You can live like the false teachers (2:13) or live like your Lord. Which will you choose?
Understand God’s purpose (15).
As you consider the length of time that has passed since the promise was made, you may be tempted to be discouraged. But impatience about Christ’s return is not going to change the timing. It will only make the wait seem longer. Instead of moping about the condition of life on this planet, let’s seek to understand why God has waited so long.
God’s patience results in salvation for more people.
Of all the reasons given in the first part of the chapter, Peter rests on this one. God is giving the opportunity for more people to experience his salvation. In light of eternity, how long is too long to wait when there are souls who still need to be rescued from Hell? Our “light affliction which is but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17) is nothing to consider when we realize that others are being given the same opportunity that was graciously given to each of us. Perhaps God’s longsuffering may mean the salvation of a co-worker or relative who has not yet been saved. This is worth the wait, wouldn’t you agree?
Christ’s return is a recurring theme in Scripture.
Peter was not the only one who had written about these things. He pointed to the fact that the apostle Paul had also written about the coming of Christ. His most familiar passage is 2 Thess. 4:13-18 where he wrote about the Rapture of believers. But he also talks about Christ’s appearing in 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:8, and Titus 2:13. Peter was not alone in what he believed and taught. God had also given Paul the wisdom to write of these coming events and our need to be ready to meet the Lord.
As we think about the Coming of Christ, we realize that many do not believe and that many mock the promise our Lord made. As we consider the promise made to us by our Lord, let us not lose heart. But instead, let us rejoice knowing that his purpose is for the good of many who have yet to hear the gospel and be saved.
Guard yourself from error (16-17).
Peter was not content to stop talking about his beloved brother Paul. It may surprise you to remember that it was Paul who had publicly rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-16). And yet after being convinced of his own error, Peter made things right and was able to work in harmony with Paul once again. Now after many years, Peter refers to Paul as a beloved brother.
Some Scriptures have been twisted.
There are a good number of passages written by Paul that take much study and prayer to understand. (You might say the same thing about Peter’s epistles.) For example, what did Paul mean by “work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” (Phil. 2:12) At first you might think he is teaching works salvation. But he did not say work for your salvation, but work out your salvation. Paul was exhorting believers to show evidence of what God had already done in their lives. No doubt there are many other portions of Paul’s epistles that have been misunderstood or will be in the future. Unfortunately, some people are very good at twisting the Scriptures.
To describe their actions, Peter uses a word which means “to twist or torture.” To get the idea, you’ll need to visit the local Good Will store. Purchase an old record and place it in the summer sun. After a while that record will play an entirely different tune. You will watch the needle of your record player travel up and down across the warped plastic and hear something very strange. What happened? The record which once played perfectly had become warped into something entirely different.
Some believers have been led astray.
That is exactly what these people do. Due to their ignorance of the truth and the instability of their spiritual makeup, they are unable to understand what the Scriptures mean. And so, they warp the meaning to fit their own beliefs. Sadly, even true believers can be led astray by these false beliefs if they are not careful students of the Word. Consider yourself warned of the error of the wicked. It could happen to you if you are not careful.
I take this thought very seriously. If the apostle Peter was led astray by legalistic Jews, is it possible that I could be as well? I try to be very careful when reading Christian books. While studying the topic of modesty earlier this year, I purchased a book from an internet site which claimed to be Christian. After placing the order, I discovered that the book was written by a Seventh Day Adventist. No doubt the author had some worthwhile content, but knowing the corruptive nature of this false religion, I eventually threw away the book. For me, finding some good thoughts in the book was not worth the danger to my own spiritual thinking. Too many others have fallen to their legalistic teaching. I don’t want to be led astray as well.
So, what can a believer do to be ready for the dangers ahead? How can he be ready for the return of Christ? How can he know what is true and false? Peter’s last imperative answers those questions.
Grow in Christ (18).
“Continuing spiritual growth is the effective safeguard against falling”
(D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude, Greenville, SC: Unusual Publications, 1989, p. 177).
Physically there is no provision made for growing taller. Although some wish it possible, there is no way to increase your height. But spiritually, it is possible to grow. Peter used a word which can also be translated “advance, grow, or increase.” In other words, we are commanded to grow in several areas of our spiritual relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to do so in two areas: grace and knowledge.
Appreciate his grace.
When I was first saved, the grace of God was very real to me. I realized that God had sent his perfect Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. When I turned from my sins and placed my faith in him, God saved me from the punishment I rightfully deserved. This was a great blessing to me. I wanted to tell all of my friends. It has been years since that happened. But my understanding of hsi grace has deepened over time. Now I realize how little I had to do with my salvation. As I study the great doctrine of election in the New Testament, I realize that salvation is of the Lord. If it were not for his choosing me and drawing me to himself, I would never have turned to him from my sins. But by God’s grace, he saved me and made me his child. That ever increasing understanding of his grace has changed my life.
Know him better.
Along with grace, we are commanded to grow in our knowledge of our Lord. If you remember our early studies in this book, you will recall that knowledge was the second item to be added to our faith following virtue (see 1:5-8). There is much to be learned in the Bible. But Peter specifically commands his readers to grow in their knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing him must be important.
What is there to learn about our Savior? Study the gospels and you will see that each one addresses a different facet of his greatness. In those gospels we find that he is described as Prophet, Priest, King, and God. There is no doubt that we could spend a long time writing out the lessons from his earthly ministry as recorded in the gospels. However, our learning is not limited to the gospels. Paul and the other inspired writers of Scripture teach us much more about him. Through the Scriptures we find that Jesus is Savior (Acts 5:31), Creator (Col. 1:16), and Judge (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1). And just as we think we have this knowledge mastered, we find even more in Revelation, the final book of the Bible. There is much for us to learn and we would do well to continue seeking a greater knowledge of our Lord and Savior in the Scriptures.
Give him glory.
As we grow in our understanding of who he is, we ought to come to the place where we give him the glory he rightfully deserves. But that doesn’t come naturally. We desire the glory for ourselves. We want to be noted for accomplishing things. The problem is that we often rob our Lord of the glory he deserves for enabling us to do anything. So, Peter is right to conclude his final epistle with these words. After being reminded of his longsuffering, his future return, his grace, and all that we know about him, how should we respond.