Today we finish 2nd Peter. And I think it’s a wonderful text to look at on Christmas Eve, and even as we’re heading into the New Year in just over a week. To jump right in, I’d like to ask ____ to come up to read for us. As he makes his way up, please turn with us to 2nd Peter 3:14-18, and join me in standing in honor of the reading of God’s Word. 2nd Peter 3:14-18.
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.
This is the Word of the living God. You may be seated. This letter from Peter has been a message of the transforming power of the gospel. That, by God’s grace, we are adopted into his family—and now compelled and empowered to live holy lives. Peter was dealing with false teachers coming in and telling these newer Christians that God didn’t care how they lived, and even that Jesus wasn’t going to return, so it wasn’t any big deal how they lived their lives. And to that, Peter sternly responded. He had quite a lot to say about these false teachers and their coming destruction.
Now we come to Peter’s closing of this letter. These five verses are a summary of sorts, but the interesting thing about it is we see four imperatives in these five verses. If you don’t remember English grammar very well, an imperative is a command. There are four here, which is pretty unusual in such a short passage of Scripture. So we’re organizing our time this morning based directly on those four imperatives. Four final imperatives from Peter.
- Be diligent to pursue holiness (14).
Verse 14: “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these…” what is he referring to there? Look at verse 13 from last week- “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” So Peter’s saying, “since you are waiting for these,” (back to verse 14) “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” Be diligent! This is the same root word used back in 1st peter 1:5, when Peter exhorts us to “make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, etc. etc.”
In other words, holiness does not come by osmosis. It does not come passively. We talked about this some a few weeks ago, how when we repent and believe upon Christ, we are washed cleaned. We are made holy in God’s eyes. That’s our positional reality. And that’s 100% the work of God! Our adoption into His family. But our practical reality, is that we are to pursue holiness. We sill struggle in this life with sin. Every single one of us. And so Peter tells us to be diligent to be found without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
Perhaps a good way to think about this is like a marriage covenant. In fact, Paul uses this metaphor to help explain the love of Christ for his church. The church is the bride of Christ. So imagine for a moment if you asked me how my marriage was doing. “Ryan, how’s your marriage going?” Imagine I responded with, “Oh, it’s totally fine, I’ll show you the certificate.” Is that a legitimate response to that question? Of course not!
The question is not whether or not I’m married, and if I can prove it. The question is how is my marriage going? In other words, am I serving and loving my wife? Am I leading her, spiritually? Am I living at peace with my wife in my home? Certainly it matters that Lauryn and I are truly married, and truly committed to never abandoning our marriage. It’s not that the marriage license doesn’t matter. It’s just that’s not all that matters.
In the same way, church, you may have an adoption certificate, spiritually speaking. If you’ve repented and trusted in Jesus alone to save you, you are adopted into God’s family, and He will never let you go! Jesus said in John 10, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” So the question here is not, have you been adopted? But rather, are you living at peace with God? Are you striving to become like Christ?
That’s what he means here by “without spot or blemish.” Back in 1st Peter 1:19, Jesus is described as a lamb “without blemish or defect.” Very similar language telling us our goal is to become more and more like Christ in this life. And again: that takes effort. By God’s grace, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we strive for holiness. So here’s the question for us: how is our diligence?
New year’s resolutions are coming up, if you’re into that. I’m sure at least some of have in mind to exercise more, eat healthier, perhaps spend more time with you family. Here’s the thing: nothing of lasting value comes without diligence. If you’re wanting to get into shape, you have to be diligent! You have to set up a schedule. You have to force yourself to develop the habit of working out. If you want to spend more time with your family, you have to be diligent, especially if you work long hours. You have to work hard, manage your time well, and perhaps re-evaluate your priorities.
Certainly, the same is true for that which is most important. Becoming more like Jesus. This is the most important imperative we have as believers in Christ. And it takes diligence and effort. It will not come without work. The 2nd final imperative from Peter:
2. Count this time as the day of salvation (vs 15).
I love verse 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…” Most likely, Peter is referring to what Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 6:2. Paul in 2nd Corinthians quotes Isaiah 49:8 and then makes a comment about it. Let me read Paul’s words: “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Peter’s saying, we’re all on the same page. All the apostles are united. Jesus is coming, and the reason there is a delay is to give people time to repent. We talked about this in detail last week, didn’t we? And without repeating everything we said last week, let me make one primary application here:
What is your posture toward the time in which we live? How do you think and feel about this time, this place, living this life on earth? Because sin and evil abound, and they have ever since the fall, really. This isn’t new, is it? Don’t forget that Peter brought up Noah’s day, when God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah’s family and the animals brought onto the ark. Peter also brought up Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that were destroyed because literally no one righteous was found in them, except for Lot and his family.
Sin and evil abound, and certainly, in our context today, with the many conveniences and uses of the internet, including the gospel going forth like never before—we also see sin and oppression and pornography and human trafficking like never before. With all this, the false teachers Peter addressed last week basically respond with, “What’s the point?” Live how you want, Jesus probably isn’t even really coming back.” That’s their response to the world in which they lived.
So, how do you respond? What is your posture toward this life? Is it to have your marriage license with Christ, but then just sit around doing nothing until he comes back? Is it simply trying to avoid the world altogether because it’s just so corrupt and sinful? Because here’s the reality that we must never forget: TODAY is the day of salvation! The time in which we live is a time when people can repent and trust in Jesus! Do we recognize how special and important that is? That’s not always going to be the case!
I hope this radically changes our thinking and feeling about living in this world and in this time. I know evil abounds. I know life can be extremely difficult and painful. But do not forget: this is the day of salvation. This should radically compel us toward showing the people around us the love of Christ. This should radically compel us toward Christlikeness, as we do await the new heavens and new earth. We’re waiting, but not sitting idly by while we wait! Because this is the day of salvation. This is not a time for mopers, this is a time for conquerors. And that’s what we’re called in Christ, in Romans 8:37. Conquerors.
Now, before we go on to imperative number 3, Peter gives a random little tangent here about Paul’s writings. I call it a tangent, because it’s mentioned in passing, but there’s actually a lot here that you may not notice at first glance. There are three things I want you to notice here in verse 16. The first is that even the apostle Peter admits that Scripture can be hard to understand. Anyone else feel a bit of relief after reading that. This is just an important thing to take note of: if you don’t understand all of Scripture, you are in the same club as Jesus’ 12 disciples! It’s ok to not understand everything; keep going. Read His Word, especially as we come into a new year. Make a plan, grow in your understanding, recognizing, of course, that you won’t ever fully understand all of Scripture.
The second part of this tangent I want you to take note of is this: Peter calls Paul’s writings “Scripture.” Did you notice that? If you ever wonder if we have explicit evidence in the New Testament that these writings were considered inspired by God just like the Old Testament, here it is. Scripture throughout the New Testament refers to the authority of the Old Testament, and here that exact same word is used to describe Paul’s writings.
The third part of this tangent not to miss: Peter writes, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction.” What do we learn from that? It is quite literally a matter of life and death how we handle God’s Word. This is why not many of us should become teachers! James makes that point in James 3:1- “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Why is that? Because we’re charged with expounding what God has said. We must not twist it to fit our agenda. That naturally brings us to the third imperative from Peter:
3. Be on guard (vs 17).
Verse 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.” I love this language of “take care.” That word in the Greek is Phulasso. It means to be on guard, or even beware. This is the same language used in one of the most urgent exhortations from Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. Jesus is on the mount of olives teaching his disciples, and he brings up Christ and his return.
Jesus says this in Mark 13:33-37- “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Clearly this is an urgent calling from Jesus! And Peter reiterates it here in his second letter. How easy it is, if we’re not paying attention, to be carried away without even noticing. I’ve used the example before of swimming in the ocean. If you’re swimming and just enjoying yourself but don’t pay attention to where you are, before you know it, you’ll be way down the beach, far away from where you started. And with how strongly our culture pulls us toward sensuality, and you being you, no matter what that means—if we’re not alert and awake, we too can be carried away. We can fall into error, as Peter puts it.
Now, if you’re a genuine believer in Christ, you’ll never be swept away fully. But, you can lose your stability. That’s the word Peter uses. One commentator I read this week put it like this: “Confidence in our status with Christ should never lead to a presumption on God’s grace that leads us to toy with the danger of false teachers or that negates serious striving after holiness.” Now, depending on where you’re at, all this talk from Peter may sound negative to you. You may be thinking, “This is church, let’s just talk about joy in Christ, especially on Christmas Eve, Ryan! Ugh!”
But let me be clear: there is no time that we are not to be on guard. Christmastime should be yet another reminder of how easy it is to be swept away with all the cultural pulls of what Christmas is or what it’s supposed to be. For us, church, this is a time of celebration and serious joy. I love that phrase, “serious joy.” Yes, be joyful. But be joyful as one waiting for the Day of the Lord. Be joyful as one making every effort to follow after Christ no matter what’s happening around them. That’s serious joy, and we have to guard it. And if you still feel that’s a bit negative, here’s the positive. The 4th and final imperative from Peter:
4. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (vs 18).
This is Peter’s final positive command. I would say that verse 18 is THE key verse of this letter. Douglas Moo writes this: “Here Peter summarizes his root concern: that his readers, resisting the heresy of the false teachers, continue to grow spiritually, becoming more and more like the Christ whom they confess.”
Part 6 of our church covenant here at Lamar says this: “We will nurture our new life in Christ by pursuing Godliness.” And one of the points we make in every Lamar 101 class as we go over our church covenant is that a year from now you should not look the same, spiritually. Even six months from now, perhaps, there should be noticeable growth in our spiritual health. And while some of that is on us, as pastors and elders, ensuring that we teach and preach God’s Word, and guarding against false teaching—much of this is on all of us as believers in Christ.
Verse 18- “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We’ve mentioned in this series through 2nd Peter how we all know something is wrong when a baby stops developing. We know that’s not how life is supposed to go. There’s nothing wrong with being a baby, of course. But there is something wrong when development stops in any way. The same is true for our faith.
If the last several weeks of talking about false teachers and how they not only come from outside the church, but even rise from within—if all of that has been a bit unsettling for you. I’m glad. It should sober us up a bit. But know this: the antidote to instability. The antidote to deception and being carried away. The antidote is growth in grace and knowledge of Christ. Like a tree planted and with roots growing deeper and deeper and deeper into Christ—we will stand firm. By God’s grace, we will not be moved. We will remain stable.
Do not forget, as you strive toward holiness. As you make every effort. As you are diligent, God does not leave us to do this alone. No, no. Back to chapter 1- God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
Peter closes his letter wih a doxology to Christ! He writes, “To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Our goal is glorify Christ, looking forward to the day of the Lord and earnestly waiting for it. Our goal is not to sit idly by. Our goal is not merely to have a marriage certificate, but to let the full implications of the marriage covenant come to fruition in our lives. And in that way, our lives will bring glory to Christ, “both now and to the day of eternity.”