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. (2 Peter 3:14-18; ESV)
Make Every Effort
Peter concludes his letter with some final words and instructions. Since we are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus, we need to make every effort to be found in two conditions: without spot or blemish and at peace. Interestingly, Peter connects this admonition to 3:10 where he used the same Greek word to describe how the earth and our works will be exposed. On the day when all is revealed, what will be exposed in our lives? Will lives of holiness and spotlessness be exposed? Will a life full of rebellion and sinfulness be exposed? Or will a life of washed away sins be found because we put our trust in Jesus? When our lives are exposed, God wants lives that were making effort to be holy and spotless, not full of unrepentant sins and rebellion. God cleanses us through the blood of Jesus and we need to make every effort to stay clean. We do not want to be found as Peter described in the proverb in 2:22 like a dog returning to its own vomit and a pig returning to the mud. You have been cleansed; be found in that condition in the Lord returns.
Second, we need to be found at peace. Peter wrote to them about this in his first letter: “Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). Notice that both letters emphasize the same two aspects: turn away from evil (be without spot or blemish) and pursue peace (be found at peace). We should not underestimate the importance of doing our part to be at peace with God and with others. There are many who think Christianity is about stirring up problems and causing tension, rather than peace. We should work to reconcile relationships and seek to be peaceable, rather than being troublemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Viewing God’s Patience
Do not look at God’s patience as a negative, which becomes faith shaking. The false teachers were claiming that the long duration of time showed that Jesus was not going to return and there was not going to be a judgment. Therefore, live how you want to live. Peter says that our lives are going to be exposed and we need to be found without spot and at peace. We cannot live how we want to live. Rather than be disturbed by the amount of time that has passed since the creation of the world, we need to count God’s patience as salvation. We must see time as the love of God trying to save more people. The Lord’s patience is giving time for more people to be saved. Do not look at time as God’s inability to act. Adopting this attitude in our lives can bring a peace and calm in understanding the duration of time from Jesus’ first coming and from the creation of the world. God loves people and God wants everyone to be saved. God is waiting in the hopes that more will be saved. But we cannot delay. It is time to be saved today while the time is still available.
Twisting the Scriptures
The false teachers were apparently taking the writings of Paul and using them in such a way to prove their own false teachings about the coming of Jesus. Peter points out in verse 15 that the writings of Paul agree with what Peter is writing to them. There is no conflict between Peter and Paul. There are a number important things that Peter says that we need to point out.
(1) Not all the scriptures are easy to understand. I think this is a useful point for us to consider. We cannot expect to understand all of God’s will on the first reading of the scriptures. The scriptures require study. The scriptures require diligence and perseverance to learn the depths of God’s will. We are foolish to walk into the scriptures half-heartedly and think that we are going to appropriately understand the scriptures. We cannot be lazy with God’s word. Such laziness has lead to misinterpretations of the scriptures. Yet how often people know just a couple of passages, just enough to be dangerous, and do not learn all the writings of God! This is the same reason that Jesus told parables while on the earth. The intention is to cause people to think and to weed out those who will truly want to get to know God. God could have wrote the scriptures on a kindergarten level. “See Jesus. See Jesus come to earth. See Jesus die. See Jesus rise three days later. See Jesus in heaven.” Are we going to treat the scriptures like this? Will we put in the effort to get to know God and learn about his will for our lives? Not all the scriptures are easy to understand. Work at it. Study them. Pray about them. Think about them. Teach about them. The scriptures are not impossible to understand, as some suggest. But they are not easy either. We must be diligent in the word of God.
(2) Many twist the scriptures and do so to their own destruction. Without working hard at the scriptures, we will twist them unintentionally. Notice that Peter says the ignorant twist the scriptures. These are people who just do not know the scriptures and/or are unstable in their knowledge of the faith. They do not consider how the scriptures fit together. They do not see how their understanding of one passages draws them into direct conflict with other scriptures. They simply do not know God’s word. Lack of knowledge will cause us many problems. It is unfortunate how often this is the case. There are many preachers and teachers who do not want to do the research, work, and study to understand the scriptures. How often there are teachings where you just want to say, “Where do you get that? How did you come up with that?” People twist the scriptures when it comes to faith. People twist the scriptures when it comes to salvation. People twist the scriptures concerning divorce and remarriage. People twist the scriptures concerning what it means to not be saved by works.
But this is a common problem when it comes to the word of God. How often did Jesus have to say, “Have you not read?” Of course the Pharisees and teachers of the law had read the scriptures. But they did not understand the scriptures properly. There are going to be people who will intentionally twist the scriptures. There will be people who twist the scriptures because they do not know the scriptures. Even in the first century Peter says there were people twisting the writings of Paul and the rest of the scriptures. Do not fail to notice the outcome: they twist the scriptures to their own destruction. They are going to lose their soul over their twisting of the scriptures. Being ignorant of the scriptures is not going to turn out well for us. We will be swayed and believe false teachings and lose our soul. We need to know the faith, the revealed word of God.
(3) There was already a body of work called the scriptures in the days of Peter that included not only the Old Testament, but also the writings of Paul. This is an important observation to make. The word translated “scriptures” simply means “the writings.” It was used to refer to the inspired writings, that is, the writings that were considered the prophetic words of God. Notice that these scriptures did not merely include the accepted Old Testament writings. Peter says that the scriptures included Paul’s writings. Not only this, there were other writings besides Paul’s that were also considered part of the scriptures. The point is important. Constantine did not convene a council to figure which books of the Bible ought to be accepted or rejected, as many modern authors charge. Even in the first century there were writings that were understood to be authoritative and breathed out of the mouth of God. Not only did Christians know what these writings were, but even false teachers knew what these writings were and were already twisting the teachings of the scriptures. The scriptures existed before the Catholic church. The scriptures were known, accepted, and preserved before the Catholic church.
(4) Peter and Paul are not in conflict concerning salvation. Finally, it is important to point out that Peter and Paul were not in conflict. Peter says he is teaching what Paul already taught them. Some have tried to make the teachings of Peter and Paul conflict with one another. Some teach that Peter taught works, but Paul taught faith and Paul was right because he came later and had to correct Peter. All of this is completely false. Paul and Peter accepted one another, saw that each had authority from God, and taught the same things (Galatians 2:9).
Don’t Be Carried Away, But Grow In Grace and Knowledge
Knowing that people are going to ignorant of the scriptures but keep on teaching anyway, we need to pay careful attention so that we are not carried away by their error and lose our stability. We need to watch out so that we are not be led astray. Notice the best solution to fight false teaching and the threat of falling away: growing in grace and knowledge. This final teaching brings the letter full circle. Recall that Peter began this letter teaching that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have all that we need to make it through this life and to be in a relationship with God. You do not need what the false teachers are offering. To not fall away from the Lord, we need to be growing Christians.
We need to grow in what we know concerning the faith that has been given to us. But Peter is not simply calling for academic knowledge so that you can beat your friends in Trivial Pursuit. The growth in knowledge should cause a growth in our character. The knowledge of the scriptures is not of value if it does not change our lives. The more aware we are of God’s grace through Jesus, the more we will hold fast to the end. We will not be likely to throw away our confidence or be shaken by false teachers. We will know that we have everything we need for life and devotion to God. We will hold on to the scriptures above all else. When everyone speaks falsely about the second coming, we will not be moved. When people question whether there is a final judgment, we will not be swayed. When people use science to try to defeat the scriptures, we will not be carried away from the faith but move closer to the Lord, knowing what Jesus has done for us.
- Make every effort to be spotless and at peace.
- See time as God’s patience for all to receive salvation.
- People will twist the scriptures in their ignorance. Do not become unstable in your faith.
- Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.