Stay the Course.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 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, 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. 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. 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. – 2 Peter 3:14-18

Peter wraps up his letter by encouraging his readers to stay diligent and dedicated to the truth they have been taught. Peter understands that the delay in Christ’s return can be difficult to understand and cause many to begin to doubt whether it is really going to happen. He also knows that living a godly life is not easy, and that watching the lost sin and not only get away with it, but thoroughly enjoy it, can be frustrating. But he wants his readers to stay committed and to continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV). As Peter has already stated, God’s seeming delay in sending back His Son is purposeful. He has a reason and His timing is perfect. Peter reminds them to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15 ESV). In other words, rather than mistakenly concluding that there is no judgment at all, as the false teachers were doing, Peter wants them to see God’s delay from a different perspective. The longer God waited, the more time there was for people to come to faith in Christ. Not only that, it provided believers with more time to grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior. In other words, it provided ample time for the divine process of sanctification to take place. If Jesus had died simply to take us to heaven, He would have done so the minute we placed our faith in Him. But our salvation was to be followed by our sanctification, our growth into Christ-likeness. That meant that we were to remain behind.

When Peter tells his readers to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation,” he is echoing the words of Paul. He even admits so. In his letter to the Romans, Paul warns his audience, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT). Paul was writing to believers. He wanted them to understand just how patient God was, how gracious He was being with them, giving them time to continue the process of salvation. Part of what God is doing, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is exposing those areas of sin in our lives that need to be confessed. He is constantly saving us from ourselves and redeeming us from the vestiges of the sin-filled lives we once lived. He is in the process of transforming us into the likeness of His Son. He has already justified us, declaring us positionally righteous in His sight. But now He is sanctifying us, making us practically righteous, by removing our old nature and replacing it with a new nature. Paul puts it this way: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).

So Peter tells his readers to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14 ESV). He wanted them to know that Christ was coming again, contrary to popular opinion and the teaching of “the ignorant and unstable.” The false teachers twisted the Scriptures to make them say what they wanted to hear. But Peter warned that God was faithful and His Word was reliable. So they were to live their lives without spot or blemish, unlike the false teachers who he describes as being “blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions” (2 Peter 2:13 ESV). Peter didn’t want to see believers carried away by the tempting promises and slick sounding words of the false teachers. He wanted to prevent them from being “carried away with the error of lawless people” (2 Peter 3:17 ESV). And the antidote for spiritual error has always been spiritual growth. That is why he told them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

When we first come to know Christ, our understanding of Him is minimal at best. We accept Him as our Savior, but there is probably little else that we know about Him. We do not fully understand the magnitude of what He has done. We have a minimal understanding of and appreciation for grace. Our knowledge and awareness of all that He accomplished for us on the cross is nominal at best. That is why Paul told the Colossian believers:

…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. – Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

We are to grow up in our salvation. We are to increase in our understanding of who Christ is and what He has done. We are to constantly expand our understanding of God’s will for us as we read His Word and listen to the inner promptings of His Holy Spirit within us. Spiritual growth is non-optional for believers. We find admonitions to grow all throughout the New Testament.

I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. – 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 ESV

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. – Hebrew 5:12 NLT

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. – Hebrews 6:1 NLT

Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. – 1 Corinthians 14:20 NLT

We must stay the course. We must run the race to win. We must complete the task set before us. We must finish strong. As Peter stated earlier in this same letter, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). We can live godly lives in the midst of ungodliness. We can live righteous lives while surrounded by unrighteousness. We can live Christ-like lives among those who deny Him. But it requires growth. It requires constant dependence upon the One who saved us and a trust that He is continually sanctifying us.

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Wait For It.

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. 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. 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.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 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! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:8-13 ESV

There were those in Peter’s day who were saying, “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” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV). Peter and the apostles had been teaching about the coming Day of the Lord, but it had not yet happened. Like the prophets of the Old Testament they had warned of coming judgment, but so far, nothing had happened. So people had begun to assume that the Second Coming wasn’t going to happen. There were even false teachers propagating the idea that there wasn’t going to be any judgment at all. This led them to mock and scorn the teachings of the apostles. With no fear of coming judgment, they followed their own sinful desires (2 Peter 3:3). They promised freedom, but were slaved of corruption themselves (2 Peter 2:19). They seduced others to abandon godly living. Without the fear of God’s judgment, they promoted a lifestyle based on sinful passions of the flesh (2 Peter 2:18). They operated on the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

But Peter had some bad news for these people. They were allowing God’s gracious delay  in bringing judgment to lead to denial of its very existence. But Peter reminds his readers to “not overlook this one fact … that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Time isn’t an issue with God. He is not bound by time. And while we may think that God seems to be taking His sweet time when it comes to the return of His Son and the final redemption of His creation, God is in no rush. And Peter tells us why. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). It is not God’s desire to destroy people. He does not love condemning the disobedient and rebellious to hell. But as a holy, just and righteous Judge, He is obligated to do so. It is His moral responsibility to deal with the sinfulness of men. To not do so would violate His very character as God. He would love to see all men repent, but He knows that will not happen. As a matter of fact, without the sovereign intervention of God Himself, no one would repent. Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). In that same chapter, Jesus is recorded as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV). And He also claimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).

Because all men are dead in their trespasses and sins, all men are condemned to die and to spend an eternity separated from God. That is the righteous punishment reserved for them by God. But God has made it possible for some to be saved. His desire would be that all be saved, but that will not happen because not all will accept His offer of salvation through faith in Christ. But God is graciously delaying His judgment on all mankind until all those who are going to be saved have been. God knows that number. In fact, Paul told the believers he wrote to in Rome, “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Romans 11:25 NLT). There is a divinely appointed number of those who will be saved. And when all those who have been called by God have been restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then His Son will return. Jesus Himself said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV). So we should view God’s delay as a sign of His grace, not as a reason to deny to His coming judgment.

God’s judgment will come, Peter assured his readers. And it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Jesus told His disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV). So Jesus told them, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 ESV). Peter gives his readers similar advice:

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.– 2 Peter 3:11-12 ESV

Jesus is coming back. Judgment is coming. God will finish what He has started. So as we wait for the promised fulfillment of His plan, we are to live holy and godly lives. Our hope is based on God completing His redemptive plan for mankind and for the universe. That’s why Peter writes, “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 NLT). Our hope is not based on this world, but the one to come. God’s final judgment will have to take place before His plan for the glorification of His creation can happen. Jesus had to suffer and die before His glorification could take place. As followers of Christ, we are experiencing suffering in this life, but we will one day be glorified. We are to live with the end in mind. Which is why Paul encourages us with these words:

While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 NLT

 

Naively Ignorant.

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, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 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.” 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, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 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. – 2 Peter 3:1-7 ESV

They say, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” But not only is that not the case, it can be deadly wrong. Especially when it comes to the judgment of God. The false teachers who were stirring up trouble among the believers to whom Peter wrote, were evidently mocking the apostles’ teaching regarding the return of Christ. In their estimation, things were going along like they always had. There seemed to be no indication or sign that Jesus was going to return anytime soon. So this gave them the confidence to follow their own sinful desires. They even mocked at the very idea of Jesus coming back, which was a direct contradiction of what the apostles taught. Peter started out this letter saying, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV). They had seen Jesus in His resurrected state and they had watched as He had returned to heaven, right in front of them. But before He left, He had told them that He would one day return. He also told them that there would be a time of coming judgment.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

Peter brings up the flood as well. He says, “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, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5-6 ESV). These scoffers and doubters were not doing their homework. In their desperate desire to discount the apostles’ teaching about coming judgment, they had overlooked the fact that God had destroyed the earth once before. And while they were confidently boasting, “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” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV), they were wrong to turn the lack of signs into cause for discrediting the reality of God’s pending judgment. Even those in Noah’s day were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. In other words, they were doing business as usual. Life went on, and they didn’t see it hit them until it was too late. “So will be the coming of the Son of Man,” Jesus said.

God’s judgment is going to come. And it will catch many by complete surprise. They will be going on with life as they always have, ignoring the Word of God and the offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. They will scoff at the idea of punishment for sin and the need for a Savior. They will mock those who attempt to live righteously in this world, living like Moses, choosing to “be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 12:25 ESV).

That is why Peter wrote this letter. He was attempting to remind his readers to keep on keeping on. He wanted them to remain steadfast and committed, and to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2 ESV). Peter and the other apostles were teaching the reality of Christ’s return for His church, the inevitability of the tribulation, and the promise of the second coming of Christ when He will judge the world and establish His Kingdom on earth. For Peter, it was essential that his readers stay committed to and dependent upon the Word of God. Let the scoffers scoff and the mockers mock. Let the doubters have their day and the naysayers have their moment in the sun. But as people of faith, we put our trust in the reliability and truthfulness of God. He says of Himself, “I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the LORD, speak only what is true and declare only what is right” (Isaiah 45:19 NLT).

Isaiah goes on to record the words of God proclaiming, “Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me” (Isaiah 45:22-23 NLT).

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John records the words of Jesus:

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Revelation 22:12-17 ESV

The naively ignorant can live as if the promise of His return is a pipe dream. They can boldly deny the reality of the coming judgment of God. But denying something is true does not make it so. As followers of Christ we are to live with these words ringing in our ears:

“Surely I am coming soon.” And our response to that promise should be “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV).

False Teachers = False Hope.

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” – 2 Peter 2:17-22 ESV

Peter is not yet done castigating the false teachers who were wreaking havoc in the local churches to whom he was writing. You can tell by the tone of his words that he is angry and unwilling to tolerate the damage these individuals are doing. Like Jude, he uses imagery from nature to describe just how valueless they are. He calls the waterless springs. It sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. What is a spring that has no water? Is it still a spring? These people promise refreshment with their false teaching, but never deliver on their word. Like a dried up spring, they are incapable of doing so. Peter refers to them as mists driven by a storm. Once again, they seem to offer much-needed refreshment, but are completely susceptible to “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Jude used similar descriptions for false teachers, calling them “waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (Jude 1:12-13 ESV). They are highly promising, extremely appealing, and pleasant sounding, but they bring no value to the table. Which is why both Peter and Jude say their judgment is going to be severe. They are misleading the people of God and they will one day pay for what they have done. Peter says, “For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (2 Peter 2:7 ESV). Jude says virtually the same thing: “for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 1:13 ESV). Jesus had similarly harsh words for the Pharisees in His day. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 ESV). False teaching is not to be taken lightly. And yet, in our day it is rampant. There are countless individuals speaking and writing today whose words do not conform with the teaching of Jesus and His apostles. They claim to be speaking on behalf of God and presenting the truth of God. But their words are false. They are teaching destructive heresies. They are contradicting the words of Jesus and the Word of God. And yet there are many who gladly listen to their words and buy into what they are teaching. Warren Wiersbe describes them well.

“The average person does not know how to listen to and analyze the kind of propaganda that pours out of the mouths and printing presses of the apostates. Many people cannot tell the difference between a religious huckster and a sincere servant of Jesus Christ.” – Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary

The problem with false teachers is that they use just enough truth to give their message credibility, but they mix in their own opinions and dilute it with erroneous assumptions and assertions. They mention the gospel, but it ends up being a different gospel. They speak of Jesus, but He ends up as little more than a caricature or loose characterization of the Jesus we know from the gospels. They deny the reality of hell. They downplay the judgment of God. They refuse to talk about sin, and in doing so, they accommodate and encourage immorality. They emphasize the here and now over the hereafter. They promote the good life over the life of righteousness. Their words comfort but never convict. They downplay the role of suffering in the life of the believer and accentuate the blessings of God in the form of earthly possessions and personal pleasure.

These people are slaves to their false doctrine. Their denial of judgment and refusal to acknowledge the reality of hell do not make either one of them go away. These people have to remain committed to their false teaching and end up being enslaved to a futile way of life that never delivers what the claim in promises.

In the last three verses of this chapter, Peter makes a very strong statement regarding these individuals. He claims that they had heard the truth of the gospel. “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 2:20a ESV).  This does not necessarily mean they placed their faith in the truth of the gospel and became followers of Christ. They had heard the good news regarding Jesus and His offer of salvation. In that sense, they had heard the means by which they might escape the defilements of the world. But they had not believed. They had become enamored with the gospel, but not changed by it. In fact, it would seem that they developed their own version of the gospel and began to teach their own rendition of the truth and, as a result they found themselves  “again entangled in them [the defilements of the world] and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20b ESV).

They had heard the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, but they had rejected it. And they were worse off than they had been before. Now they were guilty of misleading people by claiming to speak on behalf of God. They were willfully and deliberately twisting the truth of God for personal gain. Peter says, “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:21 ESV). They were without excuse. And Peter uses a couple of proverbs familiar to his audience to describe the fate of these false teachers. “‘A dog returns to its vomit.’ And another says, ‘A washed pig returns to the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22 ESV). They had been offered the hope of eternal life and the promise of forgiveness of sin. They had been told about the only means of being made right with God and yet, they had rejected it and returned to their old way of life.

C. S. Lewis describes the fate of these false teachers well:

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is mean by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. ― C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

We will always be able to find teachers who will tickle our ears and tell us what we want to hear. We will always be tempted to find our satisfaction in this life. But false teachers offer false hope. They teach half-truths that are easily embraced by half-hearted individuals. Gullibility in the life of the believer is dangerous. We don’t ever have to fear losing our salvation, but we do need to recognize that the abundant life promised by Jesus can be squandered and the joy He came to bring can be lost – if we allow the lies of false teachers to replace the truth of the gospel.

False to a Fault.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. – 2 Peter 2:10-16 ESV

Who were these false teachers? What were they like? Peter gives us a rather unflattering portrayal of them, and wastes no time trying to hide his real feelings about them. He refers to them as “irrational animals creatures of instinct.” Like animals, they are driven by their base instincts. Their behavior was motivated by their own self-satisfaction. Jude makes a similar accusation in his letter, saying, “these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively” (Jude 1:10 ESV). It seems that they were guilty of blaspheming the fallen angels, those angels who followed Satan in his rebellion against God and were cast out of heaven. The word Peter and Jude both used is βλασφημέω (blasphēmeō) which means “to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile” (“G987 – blasphēmeō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). Peter speaks of them blaspheming “the glorious ones,” using the term, δόξα (doxa) that almost always refers to angels. In this case, Peter seems to be talking about those angels who fell from their once glorious position in heaven and were cast down by God. These false teachers were evidently belittling these fallen angels or denying their existence altogether. But as a way of contrast, Peter indicates that angels – ἄγγελος (aggelos) – “though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:11 ESV). Here he appears to referring to those angels who still reside in heaven. These “good” angels do not speak reproachfully to God about those angels who have fallen. But these men do. Jude explains that they blaspheme all that they do not understand. They discount or dismiss what they do not know. Peter says they blaspheme “about matters of which they are ignorant.” Blasphemy, at its root, refers to “stupid speech.” It is to speak authoritatively, yet ignorantly about things you do not understand.

These false teachers were evidently spouting their opinions about a wide variety of matters. They also lived lives that were inconsistent with that of true believers. Peter accuses them of wrongdoing, of reveling in the daytime, having eyes full of adultery, and an insatiable appetite for sin. They were hedonistic, driven by their sinful desires and addicted to the finer things in life. Peter’s reference to their eyes being full of adultery would seem to indicate that their minds were overflowing with thoughts of unfaithfulness to God. While it could mean that they were involved in literal adultery, it makes more sense within the context to see this as an indictment of their faithfulness to God and His Word. Their unfaithfulness was deceiving and leading astray those who had “unsteady” or unstable souls. The spiritually immature were especially susceptible to the teachings of these individuals.

Jude’s description of them is quite revealing.

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;  wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. – Jude 1:12-13 ESV

They were like waterless clouds. They appeared to bring much-needed rain, but were simply blown by the wind, never delivering what they seemed to promise. They were like fruitless trees, dead and uprooted, capable of providing nothing in the way of real nourishment. They were like crashing waves, loud and impressive, but ultimately destructive. And like wandering stars, they were unreliable as guides to those who were lost. You could not use them to find your way in life because they were inconsistent and constantly changing their opinions.

Both Peter and Jude accuse them of following “the way of Balaam.” This refers to the Old Testament story of the people of Israel, when Balaam, a false prophet, was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse them. When God prevented Balaam from doing so, he counseled Balak to invite the people of Israel to join the people of Moab in a feast to honor their false god. The book of Numbers records what happened: “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord” (Numbers 31:16 ESV). The Moabites were known for their practice of prostitution as part of the worship of their god. The Israelites, under the deceptive influence of Balaam would find themselves participating in the immoral festivities associated with the worship of the false gods of Moab.

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. – Numbers 25:1-3 ESV

So the false teachers, like Balaam, were guilty of leading the people of God astray. He “loved gain from wrongdoing.” He had been in it for personal gain. And in the same way, the false teachers were doing what they were doing it for what they could get out of it. And like Balaam, these false teachers would obstinately walk in their own sinful state of delusion, refusing to listen to the words of God and the warnings of His prophets. False teachers develop a false sense of security, ultimately believing that what they are saying is true. Their greatest danger seems to be the sincerity and sense of authority they evoke. They appear to believe what they teach. They come across as confident and sure of themselves. But as Jude describes them, they are like “hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves” (Jude 1:12 ESV). They are dangerous. They are subtle and seductive. They are self-serving and focused only on satisfying their own desires. They are to be avoided at all costs. They are to be exposed and expelled from the church. They are not bad teachers. In fact, most of them are very good at what they do. They are influential and inspirational. They are persuasive and their teaching comes across as reasonable and right. But that is where the danger lies. We must heed the words of Jude, when he warns that they are “ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 ESV).

 

 

 

He Will Right All Wrongs.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. – 2 Peter 2:4-10 ESV

Peter is not dispassionate when it comes to the topic of false teachers. He is deeply concerned and emotionally vested, and these verses give us a glimpse into just how seriously Peter took this matter. In his estimation, false teachers were to be expected, but not tolerated.

In the original Greek, these verses were actually one long sentence. It is as if Peter was speaking and was so intense and passionate, he failed to take a breath. He has two key points: First, God knows how to rescue the godly from trials. Secondly, God also knows how to deal with the unrighteous. There is a day of reckoning coming. God’s judgment is inevitable and unavoidable. And while we may suffer for our faith in this life, we will enjoy the blessings of God in the next life. But that is not the case for false teachers. Those who teach another gospel, attempting to discount God’s judgment or downplay the seriousness of sin, are in for a rude awakening some day. They may enjoy a certain degree of success for now and even gather a crowd willing to listen to their words, but the day of judgment is coming.

It is interesting to note the parallels between Peter’s letter and that of Jude. Jude uses a similar argument to deal with the issue of false teachers:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day — just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. – Jude 1:5-7 ESV

There is a pattern in Scripture. Those who disobey God, who rebel against Him and who, rather than seeing their sin as an affront to a holy God, pursue their passions willingly, are all doomed to God’s judgment. Both Peter and Jude refer to the angels who rebelled alongside Satan. In the book of Isaiah, we get a glimpse into rebellion that Satan led. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah presents the king of Babylon as a type or symbolic representation of Satan himself.

How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV

At one time, Satan, an angel of light, rebelled against God. Desiring to be like God, he let his pride and arrogance get in the way. Rather than willingly submit to God, he boldly proclaimed, “I will…” It became a matter of his will over God’s will. His desires and passions took precedence over God’s commands. And evidently Satan was able to convince a host of angels to follow him in his plot to overthrow God. But they were cast down by God.

And what about those who lived during the days of Noah? Moses writes, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6 ESV). He goes on to describe just how bad things had gotten since the fall. “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12 ESV). And so God determined to destroy the earth and all who lived on it, except for Noah and his family. Peter tells us that God “preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5 ESV). God rescued Noah, but destroyed the wicked. He preserved the righteous, but punished the unrighteous.

Then there’s the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two cities that had become the epicenters of unrighteousness during the days of Abraham. These two towns had reputations for wickedness, sexual sin and all kinds of immoral behavior. And interestingly enough, Lot, the nephew of Abraham had made his home in Sodom. While Abraham was living in tents as a nomad, Lot had chosen to enjoy the comfort and conveniences of city life. But Peter describes Lot as righteous. He was a God follower. And he was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7 ESV). Peter states that “he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8 ESV). So God determined to wipe out these two cities, but because of the prayers of Abraham, God spared Lot and his family. Peter tells us that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6 ESV).

Fallen angels. A corrupt world. Wicked men. What’s Peter’s point in all of this? It would seem that Peter wanted his readers to align themselves with the non-rebellious angels; with Noah, a herald of righteousness; and righteous Lot.  The false teachers, like Satan and the rebellious angels, corrupt mankind and the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah, will receive their punishment in time. We must trust that God will deal righteously and justly in the end. He will right all wrongs. He will punish all unrighteousness. He will reward the faithful and rescue the righteous.

The author of Hebrews tells us, “without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:6-7 ESV). Living in this sin-filled world requires faith. It requires that we constantly keep our eyes focused on God. Like Noah and Lot, we are surrounded by sin and rebellion against God. Falsehood is everywhere. Wickedness is rampant. But we must continue to seek God and remember that He rewards those who seek Him. Our ultimate reward is eternal life. We may suffer for now, but we will rejoice forever. We may endure pain here and now, but we will one day enjoy pleasures forevermore.

 

The Truth About False Teachers.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. – 2 Peter 2:1-3

False prophets had been a constant problem for the people of Israel. It seems that every time a God raised up a prophet and gave him a divinely inspired message for the people, a false prophet would appear on the scene, contradicting his message and misleading the people. These false prophets claimed to be agents of God, but had not been chosen by Him or given a message from Him. They were self-appointed freelancers. But God had stern warnings concerning these false prophets.

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. – Deuteronomy 18:20 ESV

Sounds a bit intense doesn’t it? But it reveals just how seriously God took the role of the prophet. They spoke for Him. They were His mouth pieces, speaking His words to His people. They were only to speak what they had heard from Him and nothing else.

During the last days of the kingdom of Judah, just after they had been defeated by the Babylonians and had begun their 70-year exile, a conflict arose between Jeremiah, the prophet of God who had warned the people that their defeat and deportation was eminent. They had been disobedient to God and He had warned them that He would use the Babylonians to punish them. Zedekiah had been placed over Judah as a kind of puppet king by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jeremiah, the prophet of God, was still in Judah, warning the king and the people to submit to their fate, because it had been God-ordained. But another prophet named Hananiah began to proclaim a different message. He gave the king and the people a message he claimed to have received from God:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord‘s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. – Jeremiah 28:2-4 ESV

Hanahiah’s message, while preferable to the one Jeremiah had been proclaiming, was false. It was not from God. It was what the people wanted to hear, but it was not what God had intended them to receive. It was a lie disguised as truth. And Hanahiah would learn that speaking lies on behalf of God was a dangerous game to play.

And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. – Jeremiah 28:15-16 ESV

So what does all this have to do with Peter and the recipients of his letter? Everything. Just as false prophets had been a problem for the people of God during Israel’s past, false teachers would show up in the body of Christ, claiming to speak for God. Peter warns that they “will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). Jude, in his letter, uses similar wording. “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 ESV). Notice that Jude refers to sensuality. Peter does so as well. “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:2 ESV). The Greek word Peter uses is ἀπώλεια (apōleia), which means “damnable or destructive” (“G684 – apōleia (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). Not only was the teaching of these individuals false, but it was dangerous. It was based on greed and the desire for personal gain. They would use their false words to exploit and mislead the people of God. Their messages, while designed to be popular and appealing, were not of God. They were telling the people what they wanted to hear, but in doing so they were blaspheming the way of truth.

Peter claims that what they were doing, they did so “secretly.” It literally means “to introduce or bring in secretly or craftily” (“G3919 – pareisagō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). They were introducing their teaching subtly and surreptitiously alongside the teachings of Peter and the other apostles. This made it difficult to ascertain what was truth and what was falsehood. And much of what they were teaching seems to have contradicted the need for a change in the behavior of the people. Peter even accuses them of denying the Lordship of Christ Himself. Jesus dies so that those who believe in Him might be saved, but also be sanctified. His redemption includes our ongoing restoration into the image man once had before the fall. Jesus and the apostles all taught a death to self and a submission to the will of God. They called God’s people to live righteously and not sinfully. Peter has already told his readers that God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). But it seems these false teachers were proclaiming a different gospel that allowed for a life of sensuality and self-gratification. Which is why Peter will describe them as “blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:13-14 ESV).

False teachers have always been a problem in the church. Paul had warned Timothy: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 NLT). Telling people what they want to hear may make a teacher or preacher popular and pack the pews, but it will not lead to true life change. Denying the truth of God in order to provide people with false hope is dangerous and destructive. The gospel is good news, but that does mean it will always sound good in our ears. It can be demanding and always requires death to self. Its truth lies not in its plausibility or popularity, but in its ability to transform hopelessly lost sinners into saints.

Bright Lights In A Dark Place.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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. – 2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV

When it comes to man’s relationship with God, it seems that everyone has an opinion, but not everyone’s opinion counts. It really doesn’t matter what I think. What you determine to be the truth about God, sin, righteousness, salvation or any of a number of other important spiritual matters is unimportant if what you believe does not come from the Word of God. Peter was preparing his readers for a rather in-your-face attack on false teachers and prophets – those individuals who were rising up among the people and secretly bringing in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1). Peter will accuse them of blaspheming the way of truth with false words (2 Peter 2:2, 3). He will warn the people to avoid them like the plague. But why should his opinion matter? What made Peter any different than anyone else when it came to spiritual truth?

Peter has already made it clear that he was an eye-witness to the majesty of Christ, having been there when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain top. Peter was a hand-picked follower of Jesus and had been privileged to see the words of the Old Testament prophets concerning the coming Messiah literally come to life in Jesus. That is what he seems to mean when he says, “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV).  That day on the mountain, he, James and John had heard God audibly declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). God had testified as to the deity of Jesus. He was the Son of God. They had heard from the mouth of God Himself that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the words of the prophets. And they were to listen to Him. Which is why Peter tells his readers, “you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV). What Peter and the other apostles were teaching was the truth of God as revealed directly from the Son of God. They were carrying out the commission given to them by Jesus.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

Peter was simply teaching what he had been taught by Jesus. He was expanding upon the teachings of Jesus and clarifying the nature of the good news as revealed in His death and resurrection. As Peter has already stated, what he was teaching was not “cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV), but “the prophetic word” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV). And “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20 ESV). In other words, the prophets didn’t make up what they wrote. It was given to them by God through the inspiration of the Spirit. In fact, Peter asserts, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 ESV). Which is exactly what Paul confirmed when he wrote:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:17-18 ESV

Peter’s primary concern seems to be that his readers stay attentive to the Word of God. He wanted them to recognize the truth that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophetic words of the Old Testament. The good news was to be like a “lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV). This appears to be a reference to the return of the Lord for His bride, the Church. Peter is speaking of the rapture. Like the morning star that appears in the sky and foreshadows the coming of the dawn, Jesus will one day return for the Church and that day will usher in the dawn of a new day, the day of the Lord. Peter wanted them to live with that day in mind. They were to keep their minds focused on the reality of Christ’s eventual return.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV

The false prophets and teachers were attempting to mislead the people by teaching something other than what the prophets wrote and the apostles declared. So Peter was warning his readers to not lose sight of the truth of God’s Word and the promise of Christ’s coming. They were to stay focused on the task at hand. They were to not allow themselves to be deceived or distracted from the calling they had received from God. Jesus had appeared to them like a bright light in the darkness, illuminating their sin and eliminating their guilt and shame. Now they were to be bright lights in the darkness surrounding them. They were to live like Christ, fully reliant upon the Spirit of God and obeying the Word of God.

Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2:15-17 ESV). That was Peter’s desire as well. He wanted his readers to shine as lights in the world – bright lights in a dark place. But to do so, they would have to stay committed to the truth of God as revealed in the written Word and the Living Word. God did not leave His plan of redemption up to the opinion or interpretation of men. The apostle John made perfectly clear God’s grand plan for the redemption of mankind:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 ESV

We have that light shining within us. And we would do well to recall the words of Paul, written to the believers in Corinth.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. – 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV

Stirred Up To Grow Up.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. – 2 Peter 1:12-18 ESV

Peter wrote with a sense of urgency. He somehow knew that his days were numbered, so he wanted to make sure his audience got his message loud and clear. Essentially, Peter was going to use every moment he had to “stir up” those to whom he was writing. The Greek word Peter used is διεγείρω (diegeirō) and it means “to wake up, awaken, arouse (from sleep)” (“G1326 – diegeirō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). It could also be used metaphorically to refer to arousing or stirring up the mind. He wanted them to think about and constantly consider the qualities he had just mentioned: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. He wanted them to “practice these qualities” so that they would not fall (2 Peter 1:10). Peter knew that they were going to face difficult times. He was well aware that, after his departure, they would be on their own. His letter was intended to be a lasting reminder and source of constant encouragement for them to persevere. He wanted them to be able to “recall these things” long after he was gone, so that they would not become “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). He knew that “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9 ESV). Failing to think about and to supplement these qualities to one’s faith would eventually lead to spiritual apathy and regression rather than transformation.

So as long as Peter had life and breath, he was going to harp on the need for his brothers and sisters in Christ to live their lives in such a way that the “divine power” granted to them by God would show up in these ever-increasing qualities. He fully expected them to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). And what he had been writing to them was not something he had made up. They were not the teachings of a man, but the divinely inspired words of God. One of Peter’s greatest concerns for his audience was that there were already those who were teaching them “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). They were claiming to be prophets of God and teachers sent from God. So it was essential that Peter establish his credentials and defend his credibility. He had been a disciple of Jesus Christ. He had been an eye-witness to His miracles, a partner in His ministry, and a recipient of Christ’s great commission. Not only that, Peter had been given a personal directive from Jesus Himself to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter reminded his readers that it was he, James and John who had been “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV). The three of them had been with Jesus on the mountain top when He underwent His transfiguration.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. – Matthew 17:1-3 ESV

It was at that time when God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). Peter says, “we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:18 ESV). He wasn’t some self-appointed prophet spouting his personal opinions. He was a hand-picked disciple of Jesus Christ who had been received the following commission from Him after His resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and 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” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV). And that is exactly what Peter had been doing. He had been teaching them what he had learned from Jesus. He had been passing on what he had received from his three years with the Savior. He wanted his readers to enjoy the abundant life Jesus had promised (John 10:10). He desired for them to experience the rest Jesus had offered (Matthew 11:28 ESV). He so wanted them to know the fullness of joy Jesus had talked about (John 15:11) and the powerful presence of the Spirit Jesus had told them about (John 14:26). 

Peter’s call to add to their faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love was not some kind of motivational talk designed to bolster his readers’ flagging faith. It was a divinely inspired word of God. Peter knew that saving faith was transformative in nature. God has “called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). He has “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). Our salvation is intended to result in our sanctification. We have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV), so we should live like it. Our lives should reflect our new nature. Our character should be increasingly more like that of Christ. What Paul told the believers in Corinth should also be true of us. “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). There is no place for complacency in the life of a follower of Christ.

Faith Alone, But Not By Itself.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-11 ESV

Peter would have been one of the first to defend the concept of sola fide, salvation through faith alone. He firmly believed that man could not be justified or made right with God by anything other than faith alone in Christ alone. But that did not mean he believed that saving faith was all that was needed or necessary in the life of the believer. Our faith in Christ must be accompanied by a change in our behavior and character. James wrote, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14 ESV). Then he answered his own question, saying, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17 ESV). James was not contradicting sola fide, he was simply acknowledge that saving faith is life-transforming faith. It results in a life of good works. And Peter corroborates the view of James when he tells his readers: “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV). That’s quite a list. James summed his up in one word: Works. But Peter decided to get a bit more specific.

When speaking of supplementing their faith, the  Greek word he used is ἐπιχορηγέω (epichorēgeō) and it is an interesting choice. It actually means “to supply, furnish, present” (“G2023 – epichorēgeō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). But it comes from another Greek word that is compound word in the Greek that combines the preposition “in” or “on” with chorēgeō, a word that literally means “to procure and supply all things necessary to fit out a chorus” (“G5524 – chorēgeō (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). That gives Peter’s words a whole new twist. He is telling his readers to “make every effort” to see that their faith in Christ be outfitted with all the necessary elements to produce a harmonious and God-honoring life.

It is important that we remember the encouraging words Peter wrote just a few verses earlier. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). These “supplements” Peter speaks about come from God. They are not man-made or self-produced. In his first letter, Peter stated, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies (chorēgeō) — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11 ESV). The seven things that Peter mentions are God-given and designed by Him to complete every believer with the Christ-like character necessary to live harmoniously and righteously on this earth.

Spirituality, or our growth in godliness is a daily choice. It doesn’t just happen. It requires cooperation and effort on our part. The list Peter supplies is in a specific order and each word builds on the one before it. He uses a common literary device to move his thoughts toward a crescendo that ends with the word, “love.” He is not necessarily giving priority to one word over the other. He is also not saying that you have to add them to your life in the order in which he has given them. He is simply expressing that their is a natural progression to godliness. Like a tree, we are to grow gradually and intentionally, just as our Creator has designed. He begins with virtue. This is a word that described our inward character. It is moral excellence that begins in the heart and expresses itself through behavior. Virtue is a willful obedience to the calling of God on your life.

Knowledge refers to our need to know more about God and His Son. In chapter three, Peter writes, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV). Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was the God “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17 ESV). His prayer for the believers in Colossae was that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 ESV).

Next Peter mentions self-control. This has to do with the ability to master our desires and passions. Rather than allowing our sinful flesh to dictate our behavior, we are to live under the control of the Spirit of God. That’s why Paul told us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 ESV). Our flesh or old nature wants to control us. It wants to dictate our behavior, but we must keep it under control.

Next is steadfastness or perseverance. This has to do with having an attitude of resilience. Living as a believer on this planet can be tough at times. We must keep on keeping on. But it is much more than just a toleration of what is happening to us. It carries the idea of confident and joyful awareness that God is in control and is using any and all circumstances to mold us into the likeness of His Son.

Godliness is just what it appears to be. It is to have and display the character of God. This does not infer that we can become God, but that, as His children, we should reflect His character. We have the Spirit of God living within us, and as we submit to His leadership, we begin to exhibit the fruit of His presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Brotherly affection is simply love for our fellow believers in Christ. That includes the unattractive and unlikeable, the haves and the have-nots. It eliminates any place for jealousy, envy, gossip, slander or hatred. Paul gives us a glimpse into what this looks like when he writes, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV).

Finally, Peter ends his list with the word, “love.” He uses the Greek word ἀγάπη (agapē), which refers to the highest form of love. It is the same kind of love with which Christ loved us. It is selfless, sacrificial, and always puts others as the highest priority.

Peter tells us that these qualities should be evident and constantly increasing in our lives. And if they are lacking, then we have every reason to wonder what has happened. He says we have become so nearsighted as to be blind. We have lost the ability to see those around us and have become so self-focused that we end up living as if God and others don’t even exist. Is that really saving faith? Is that what we have been called to as believers in Christ? Peter tells us that as these seven qualities increase in our lives, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are truly called and our faith is real. They are the evidence of our election, the proof of our calling by God. So we must constantly remember what Paul told his disciple, Timothy. “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time–to show us his grace through Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1;( NLT).