PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Peter 3:17-18; Grow in Grace, Knowledge, Glorify Jesus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100328_2peter3_17-18.mp3

03/28 2 Peter 3:17-18 Grow in Grace and Knowledge and Glorify Jesus

Today we conclude our study through the New Testament letters of 1 & 2 Peter. Jesus, when he appeared on the shores of the lake after his resurrection, told Peter to ‘feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep’ (Jn.21:15-17). Peter was faithful, and now we hold in our hands among the books of the New Testament, these two God saturated grace filled truth packed letters from the pen of the apostle Peter. We’ve spent some time unpacking what Peter has given us by way of instruction and warning and encouragement, and as we come to the end, I’d like to look back over some of the highlights of these weighty documents.

Peter wrote his first letter to churches who were suffering fiery trials and persecution from those outside. He writes the second letter because these churches are being attacked by scoffers from within who question the return of Christ and undermine the need for moral integrity.

Peter says:

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

So Peter wrote primarily to stir us up by way of reminder. As believers we all know some things about God and his grace toward sinners. Peter assumes that we know some things. Peter’s stated purpose in both his letters is to stir us up by way of reminder. The truth of God’s word can settle out at the bottom of our hearts and minds and we can go on and live as if it were not there at all. Peter aims to agitate our hearts and minds to bring the truth that we know up to where we will do something about it and live in light of it. In his first letter, he reminds us of our identity as elect or chosen by God, but aliens or strangers in this world (1:1). He prays for us that grace and peace would be multiplied to us (1:2) and then his heart erupts in worship God who is rich in mercy (1:3). Peter spends the beginning paragraphs of his letter unfolding the truth of God’s gracious purposes toward us in salvation (1:3-12), and then he exhorts us to set our hope fully on God’s grace that is still to come (1:13) as transforming power for holy life. Our life is to be a life lived in light of the facts of who God is and what he’s done for us (1:17-19). We are to live life in light of the cross. And we are to live lives that put God on display. The purpose of our existence is to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you’ (2:9). Our lives are to be such that ‘they may see your good deeds and glorify God’ (2:12). Peter has given us practical instruction on how to glorify God by our conduct in relation to gossips, to government, to evil employers, and to unbelieving spouses (2:12-3:7). He encourages us when we find ourselves suffering unjustly, because this is grace in God’s sight, and we are called to put God on display through how we face suffering (2:20-21). Jesus is the ultimate example of redemptive suffering – through his suffering in our place, we have been brought near to God (3:18) and through our suffering, we have an opportunity to display the good news of the total sufficiency of God for hopeless sinners. Because God uses suffering to refine us, we should humble ourselves under his mighty hand, so that at the proper time he will lift us up (5:6). We have an adversary that would like to swallow us whole, so we must be on our guard and keep our faith firmly fixed on God (5:8). God is ‘the God of all grace’ (5:10), and he ‘will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you’ so that all power is seen to be his (5:11). Peter concludes that ‘this is the true grace of God’ and he tells us to ‘stand firm in it’ (5:12)

Throughout the letter, he points us to Jesus, Jesus who sprinkles us with his blood (1:2); Jesus who gives us a living hope through his resurrection (1:3); Jesus who will reward us at his coming (1:7). The Old Testament prophets pointed to the sufferings and glories of Jesus (1:11). The precious blood of Jesus is our ransom (1:19); Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (2:24); Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (3:18). This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it (5:12).

In his second letter, Peter tells us that we have obtained faith as a gift by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (1:1). He asks that grace and peace be multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (1:2). He reminds us of his divine power that has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us (1:3) and he wants us to be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). He wants us to be diligent to make our calling and election sure by growing in godly qualities so that we will be given entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:11). Peter knows his death will be soon, so he is making every effort to leave a permanent written reminder to stir us up and establish us in the truth (1:12-15). He warns us of the danger of those who secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them (2:1). These false teachers are characterized by arrogance, sensuality and greed, and he warns that it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness then to have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then later to become entangled in them again (2:20-21). Peter re-interprets the perceived delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises as the abundant mercy of God toward sinners, patiently giving them multiplied opportunities to repent. But Peter’s warning is clear – judgment is coming and the ungodly will be destroyed. He implores us to diligence – to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace. And he concludes the letter this way:

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 fourth time Peter addresses us as his ‘beloved’. He deeply cares about the flock of God and wants to prepare us and protect us from the dangers at hand.

The ‘you’ in this verse is personal and it is emphatic; ‘you therefore – you!’ You, in contrast to the ignorant and unstable who twist the scriptures to their own destruction.

You, knowing this beforehand. Knowing that scripture twisters would come, knowing that it was predicted that scoffers would come following their own lusts; knowing that the judgment of God is coming and all the works done on the earth will be laid bare, knowing that God is

Exodus 34:6 … “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Because we know this beforehand, take care. Be on guard. Watch out! This is the first of two imperatives that Peter gives to keep us from falling. Watch out!

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

1Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

You! Do not think you are exempt from this! Most people do not say ‘I think today I will embrace a destructive heresy and deny the Master who bought me’. It is a gradual, almost imperceptible slide down a slippery slope.

When Paul had to confront Peter publicly about his actions that were inconsistent with his beliefs, he says:

Galatians 2:13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. This is that same word that is used here – carried away. Enormous social pressure is often applied to individuals. Even Barnabas was carried away. Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who introduced the newly converted Paul to the rest of the Apostles who were afraid (Acts 9:27); Barnabas, who was a trusted messenger sent on several important assignments in the early church; Barnabas, who accompanied Paul on much of his missionary work, even Barnabas, who had the guts to stand up to Paul in their dispute over taking John Mark along on another missionary journey, this Barnabas lost his own stability and was carried away by the hypocrisy of the Jews in undermining justification by faith alone with his actions.

Peter knew first hand what this was like. Peter bowed to the social pressure of the Jews from James who came to Antioch. Peter, who told Jesus he would die with him (Lk.22:33; Mt.26:33,35), even after he was warned that Satan desired to sift him like wheat (Lk.22:31); even after Jesus told him to watch and pray that he might not enter temptation (Mk.14:37); even after Jesus explicitly predicted that he would fail three times, when he was asked by a servant girl, he denied three times with oaths that he even knew Jesus (Lk.22:55-61).

We are all in danger of losing our own stability. In 1 Peter 5:6-9, he cautions us toward humility and sober-minded watchfulness, because ‘Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ And he tells us to ‘resist him, firm in your faith, knowing …’ We gain the victory through humility – not thinking we can handle it, but knowing that we can’t and depending on the God of all grace, who will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

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.

Peter’s second imperative to keep us from being carried away ultimately to our own destruction is to grow. Grow in grace. Grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grow!

But how do we grow? Growth seems to be something that happens to us, yet here Peter commands us to grow and he expects us to heed the warning and obey. How do we grow? Peter told us in his first letter.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Plants grow and produce fruit. Babies grow. Growth is natural, almost a passive process. But for growth to happen, the proper nutrients need to be ingested. When Hannah was born at 2lbs 15oz, she needed to grow. They put a tube through her nose into her stomach, and we would pour nutrient rich milk down that tube, and she grew. When I hold Isaiah, he opens his mouth and grunts and roots around looking for food. Then he gets mad and cries because he can’t find what he’s looking for. He has an insatiable appetite for milk. Peter tells us that we are to be like that – with spiritual milk – the pure milk of the word. The milk of the word is the God-given means for growth. And ultimately it is God who produces the growth:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

But how do we grow in grace if grace is an undeserved gift? Peter told us this in his first letter too – God gives grace to the humble. We grow in grace by acknowledging our dependence on God for everything. Jesus invited us to become like little children – ask, seek, knock. Ask.

Peter has prayed for us in both letters that grace would be multiplied to us. He told us that all things necessary for our life and godliness have been given to us by God’s divine power. God’s precious and very great promises have been given to us. We are to appropriate and enjoy the benefits of God’s favor toward us. We must grow in God’s free gift of grace.

We are also to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Peter’s prayer, we see that grace and peace are multiplied to us ‘in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ (1:2). And Peter told us that God’s supernatural power gives to us everything we need for life and godliness ‘through the knowledge of him who called us’ (1:3). This knowledge of Jesus we are commanded to grow in, but this knowledge is also a gift.

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

We grow by coming to him needy and hungry and thirsty and we ask. We use the God-appointed means for getting to know him – God’s word. We know Jesus as our King and our Redeemer, our one Authority that must be obeyed, and our Rescuer. Our Lord and Savior

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.

And as we grow as recipients of more and more grace, and as we grow in our knowledge and appreciation of who Jesus is and what he does for us, the natural expression will be doxology – an outpouring of praise to him. To him be glory. To Jesus be all the glory. God said:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

And Jesus said:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Peter started this letter out by pointing to the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our God and he is our Savior. And as God, he alone deserves to be glorified as God. Most New Testament doxologies attribute glory to God the Father (Rom.16:25-27; Phil.4:20-23; 1 Pet.5:10-14; Jude 24-25) , but there are a few (2Tim.4:18; Heb.13:21; Rev.1:5-6) like this one, that give the glory to Jesus. To Jesus be glory now. The false teachers were denying the Master who bought them. The antidote for this is to become recipients of his grace and grow in his knowledge and overflow with praise to him. Knowledge that does not result in worship and love will only puff up and destroy. Knowledge here is not information but an ever deepening relationship with a person. The Christian life must be defined as continual movement toward Jesus through the means he has given us to know him. That is Jesus’ description of what eternal life consists in:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Experiencing his grace, increasing in intimacy, exploding with worship. Glory belongs to Jesus right now. Right now from us today! And glory belongs to Jesus to the day of eternity. When we receive his grace and grow in our relationship with him, we will never throughout eternity tire of giving him our adoration and affection and admiration and worship and honor and praise.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 28, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 3:14-16; Diligent Waiting

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100321_2peter3_14-16.mp3

03/21 2 Peter 3:14-16 Diligent Waiting

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter addresses us four times in this closing section as ‘beloved’. He knows he is soon to die and wants to give us a permanent written record as a constant reminder of the good news of the life-transforming grace of God toward rebellious sinners like us. He wants to communicate his love for us by reminding us and informing us and encouraging us and warning us. He reminds us of the predictions of the holy prophets (which we now know as the Old Testament) and the commandment of our Lord and Savior through your apostles (which would come to be known as the New Testament). The prophetic writings and the apostolic record of the teaching of Jesus both warn of scoffers that will come in the last days. We were amply warned – it should not take us by surprise when people mock or challenge or question or doubt our Christian worldview. Peter records their unbelieving question ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’

And his first response to this accusation is that these ones who are seeking to make room in their religion to follow their own lust are ignorant. They are ignorant of their bibles, of world history and geology. They think God won’t judge the world because things have gone on without interruption as long as anyone can remember. They miss the fact that there are marine fossils on the tops of the highest mountains. If they study their geology or read their history they will realize that God once before wiped out life on the planet because of sin, and he promises he will do it again.

The second line of argument Peter lays out is challenging their interpretation of the apparent delay. We cannot demand that God abide by our time schedule, and it is a dreadful misinterpretation of the delay to assume that God is lazy, doesn’t care, and lacks the power to fulfill his promises. Instead, God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. God is merciful even toward these false teachers, giving them time to repent and turn back to the Master who bought them, the Master they have denied by their rebellious lifestyles.

Then Peter points us to the coming destruction. God is merciful to postpone his wrath, but he will not do so forever. Judgment is coming and those who presume on his mercy are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of his wrath. He challenges us to reverse-engineer our lives in light of the coming destruction.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

If everything will burn up and everything we have ever thought or felt or done will be made public then what kind of life should I live? The question is not ‘what should I do?’; the question he asks is ‘what sort of people ought we to be?’ We are so eager to define ourselves by what we do. I’ve got a good job, I’m involved in the community, I serve in the church, I play this, I do this, I work here, I am advancing in… God is not at all impressed with what you do. God is interested in who you are. God is interested in character. God is interested in holiness. Not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a life set apart to follow Jesus. God is interested in godliness – a life characterized by worship, putting God first in everything.

In the next verses, Peter encourages us to diligent waiting. He says that our lives should be characterized by waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. He says it three times. The Christian life is a life of waiting. “Waiting for the day of God… waiting for a new heavens and a new earth… therefore beloved, since you are waiting for these…” We wait because God has made promises and not all of them have been fleshed out yet. God has promised that he will wipe away every tear and heal every disease and make all wrongs right and put a stop to evil and bring perfect peace and harmony and uninterrupted intimacy with him. But we live in a place with pain and sickness and separation and despair and violence and greed and pride. Beloved, we are not home yet! Peter told us in his first letter that we are strangers and aliens. We shouldn’t feel comfortable, we don’t fit in, we are not home yet. All those blessings are coming to believers, justice will roll down like a river, and all evil will be put to an end. But we are not there yet! We are waiting for and hastening the day of God. We are waiting for the new heavens and new earth. Beloved, this is not all there is! It gets better than this. Paul said:

Romans 8:18-22 For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Jesus promised “I go to prepare a place for you” “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (Jn.14:2-3). Beloved, we get to be with Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”

What God has promised us is beyond our ability to comprehend. The Christian life is a life characterized by waiting, but we are not called to passive waiting. Waiting does not mean ‘I’m just going to sit here on this couch and push this button on the remote and while away the meanwhile passing the time until Jesus comes back. We are not called to passive, inactive, complacency in waiting. This word describes eager expectation, hope, anticipation, longing. This is not the tedious waiting in the dentist’s office; this is the eager anticipation of the child on Christmas eve.

Peter says that because we are waiting for a place where righteousness is at home, our waiting is to be characterized by diligence. This is now the third time Peter has used this word ‘diligence’.

1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

1:15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

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

Peter had described the false teachers as ‘blots and blemishes’ (2:13), and in his first letter he points us to our ransom which came through ” …the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1Pet.1:19). Now, our waiting for Jesus’ return is to be characterized by a passionate pursuit of holiness and godliness, or to put it another way, we are to be diligent to put Jesus on display with our lives, Jesus who is our hope and peace and righteousness, Jesus who is without blemish or spot.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, …

Diligent waiting requires proper accounting. The false teachers who followed their own desires assumed that the delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises meant that God was not faithful to his promises, not powerful enough to carry them out, not just to punish sin. So they encouraged a pursuit of passion and pleasure because they interpreted the delay as evidence that there would be no final accountability for our actions. But we are to wait differently. We are to wait diligently pursuing righteousness, because we count the delay a different way. We count it not as a delay due to slackness, but as God’s patience which is salvation. This is what Peter was telling us in verse 9, that God:

“is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2Pet.3:9

The patience of the Lord is salvation. God is not slack, lazy, uninvolved. God is at work pouring out mercy on sinners. God is at work saving people. God is right now rescuing sinners from their sin and transforming them into new creations that find joy in his righteousness.

And Peter here supports his interpretation of the delay of the promise by pointing to his unity with the apostle Paul. Apparently, Peter knew that Paul had written a letter to his readers, in which he had also addressed some of these same issues. I thank God for this sentence.

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

This is an amazing sentence. Here we are given insight into how we are to think about our bible. And even more than that it gives us insight into the relationship between two of the foundational people in the Christian church.

Before Jesus was born, the Jews had their collection of scriptures, which included the same books that we now have in our Old Testament. Jesus quoted out of it on many occasions and referred to it as a whole as authoritative. It was the authoritative witness to who he is. “It is written” would settle any argument. Before Jesus went to his death, he promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, who would “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn.14:26). Jesus sent his disciples out to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mat.28:19-20). The apostles believed that their teaching was God’s very word (1Thess2:13). As the disciples spread the gospel and planted churches in the different communities, they would write letters to encourage and teach and correct these churches. Some of these letters were expressly intended to be passed around to the different churches so that all could benefit from them (Col.4:16). Peter told us in chapter 1 that he was writing in order to leave a written record to remind future believers of the truth. These apostolic letters were highly valued and copied and shared among the churches. Peter had read several of Paul’s letters and probably had access to a growing collection of his letters there in Rome. He here makes reference to how Paul writes in all his letters. And Peter classifies Paul’s writings as Scripture. He says that Paul is a beloved brother and that he wrote according to the wisdom given him. Peter recognized a God given gift of wisdom in the writings of the Apostle Paul. What he says here about Paul is very similar to what he says about the Old Testament prophets.

2 Peter 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

He says the way the false teachers distort Paul’s writings is like the way they handle the other Scriptures, equating Paul’s writings with the rest of the God-breathed Old Testament Scriptures.

This is even more fascinating when we remember that there was a serious dispute between Peter and Paul. Paul records it in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

So Paul publicly confronted Peter – to his face – in front of everybody. He accused him of fear, hypocrisy, and a serious deviation from the truth of the Gospel. And then he recorded the whole thing in a letter – likely one of the letters that Peter had read and referred to when he spoke of ‘all his letters’ – a letter that would be circulated and preserved for all to see.

How does Peter respond to this? The apostle Peter was teachable. He received a rebuke from Paul, learned from it, and loved him for it. He rejoiced in their unity. He read Paul’s stuff. He read it not to critique it, but to learn from it. He studied it. He acknowledged that some of it was difficult to understand. The apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus, had difficulty understanding some of the things that Paul had written. He did not say that they were impossible to understand. That should encourage us in our study of scripture. We must maintain humility in acknowledging that we do not have everything figured out. But we don’t throw up our hands in despair and quit. You study to ‘present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2Tim.2:15). He also did not say that all things are hard to understand. Some things are easy. As Alistair Begg likes to say ‘the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things’. The core message of the bible is plain and clear. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for the glory of God alone is the good news proclaimed throughout the scriptures. Some things are hard to understand, but the most important things are plain and clear.

Peter is not here talking about things in the scriptures that are hard to swallow. Have you ever been reading your bible and you get to a verse or phrase and your heart says ‘I understand it, but I don’t like it’. Some things are clear in scripture but we’d prefer they weren’t there. We’d like to find a way around them. Our job in handling the bible is to do our best to understand it and obey it. We are not at liberty to attempt to explain it away. Peter tells us that ‘the ignorant and unstable twist the scriptures to their own destruction’. Ignorant does not mean stupid – it means that they were untaught – not trained or discipled in how to rightly understand the bible. And he calls them ‘unstable’. This is what Peter is fighting against throughout the letter – he wants us to be well-grounded, stable,

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

2 Peter 2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

The word ‘twist’ is a word commonly used for torture on the rack – false teachers torture the words of the bible to get them to say things they do not say. One of the most basic rules of biblical interpretation is ‘if the common sense interpretation makes sense, seek no other sense, lest you create nonsense’. And there are consequences to twisting the scriptures. Distorting God’s word to condone lifestyles that are condemned in the scripture will result in destruction. Exchanging God’s grace for works or changing God’s grace into license to sin both will bring eternal ruin to those that reject God’s transforming grace for what it is. We are called to listen to the scriptures, to humbly study and learn from the scriptures, to hear God’s word, to embrace it, to love it, meditate on it, memorize it, to obey it, to be transformed by it. We are to be stable or established by growing in grace and the knowledge of our King and Savior Jesus Christ.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 21, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 3:8-13; Why The Wait?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100307_2peter3_8-13.mp3

03/07 2 Peter 3:8-13 Why the Wait?

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Peter is encouraging the saints to remain faithful to the Lord and not be swayed by the false teachers. He addresses us four times in this section as ‘beloved’ because he cares deeply about our eternal well being, he knows eternity is at stake, and he will not stand idly by while apostates entice God’s people toward destruction. Peter’s job was reminding the saints of what they already knew. He points us back to our bibles – to the predictions of the holy prophets and to the command of Jesus given through the apostles – as a sure and safe anchor for our souls. The false teachers were teaching that morals don’t matter and that since we are saved by grace alone we can live any way we please and we will not be punished. They question if we will ever be held accountable for any of our actions because they doubt that Jesus is really coming back at all. Peter has made it abundantly clear that those who teach these things have denied the Master who bought them, they are headed straight for the fires of hell, and any who follow them in their immorality will join them in their torment.

In this final chapter, he summarizes the character and argument of the false teachers and answers it with two lines of logic to demonstrate that they stand on shaky ground, and then he draws a practical application with an exhortation to godly living.

He has repeatedly made it clear that the main issue with the false teachers is a moral one. Their doctrine is a way to make them feel better about their lifestyle. Peter says they scoff and follow their own sinful desires. His restatement of their objection to orthodox Christianity, which demands a transformed life, is this:

4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

And his first line of argument was to challenge their truth claims. All things have not continued as they were from the beginning of creation. These false teachers are conveniently omitting one huge event in history – the flood. Men once before lived as they pleased, and after much patience, God wiped out the entire planet with a global catastrophe. God did it once. He can and will do it again.

7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

The second line of reasoning that Peter raises to demonstrate that the teaching of the apostates is foolishness comes from the character of God. And this answer comes in two parts. God is eternal, and God is patient. The false teachers objected that it’s been a long time since he promised that he would come back soon. It appears as if he has abandoned his promise.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter makes reference here to Psalm 90:4

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.

God is from everlasting to everlasting; man comes from dust and soon returns to dust. To us a thousand years is unfathomable. This nation we live in has been around less than 300 years. But from God’s eternal perspective, a thousand years is like yesterday when it is gone. How significant was yesterday in your life? A thousand years is like a day.

There have been several attempts in the history of interpretation to take this verse as a mathematical formula. The first was a way to explain why God told Adam he would die in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, yet he lived to be over 900 years old. Adam didn’t live to be 1000, and if a thousand years is one day to God, then Adam died within the first day from God’s perspective. This misses the point that the death pointed to was not only physical – that day Adam suffered a severed relationship from a God who loves him, and it misses the mercy and grace of God in providing a substitute as God killed an animal in their place and clothed them with its skin. Another chronological interpretation seeks to find an outline of world history, particularly a date for the end, in the days of creation. God took six days to create the world, so the world will last 6000 years. On the seventh day God rested, so after the six thousand years are ended, Jesus will come and reign.

But our text does not say that a thousand years is one day but a thousand years is as a day. And our text says that the reverse is also true – one day is as a thousand years to God. God’s perspective not only compresses time, but expands it. God sees not only the big picture but every minute detail. Time is intensive – God is so intimately acquainted with my life that one day is as a thousand years – he doesn’t miss any details. What we in our impatience think should happen quickly may be thousands of years in delay, but is quick when considered on the backdrop of eternity. And what we think must take an eternity, God can accomplish in a moment of time. The Son of God bore multiplied eternities of punishment for the sins of the world in just three hours of darkness on the cross. The point is not that time is meaningless to God, but that God cannot be confined to operate on our schedules. Understanding that eternity of God makes the scoffing of the scoffers sound as ridiculous as it is; ‘Where is the promise of his coming? It’s been almost 40 years and Jesus hasn’t returned.’ It could be two thousand years and he wouldn’t be considered late. It could be this very moment and we shouldn’t be surprised. The scoffers overlooked the implications of the eternity of God, just like they deliberately overlooked the fact that God’s word was decisive in the creation and destruction of the ancient world.

Peter continues by giving a different interpretation to the perceived delay that fits better with the character of God. Indeed, when Peter wrote the delay had been almost 40 years. When you’re expectantly waiting, that seems like a very long time. Today the promise of the soon coming of Jesus is over 2000 years old. Why the delay? The accusation of the scoffers was that God is slack, slow, lazy, delayed, negligent, impotent – he lacks the power to fulfill his promises. He won’t because he can’t. Peter rather points us to the biblical picture of the character of God; God who is patient, long-suffering, loving, merciful, gracious. This is the picture that the bible consistently paints of God. This is the picture that God paints of himself:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God is characteristically forbearing – [makrothumia] – he bears with sinners; holds back his wrath; refrains from intervening in judgment as soon as the our deeds deserve it, though he will not hold back indefinitely. The prophet Jonah understood well the character of God. This was Jonah’s complaint against God and his excuse for fleeing.

Jonah 4:2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God well enough that he was afraid God might actually forgive the Ninevites rather than destroying them as he had threatened. But God can accomplish his purpose even if it takes a great fish to swallow his wayward prophet and deliver him to the intended recipients of his mercy. God has a reputation for being rich in mercy.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

God is exercising self-restraint in the face of grievous provocation so that he does not hastily retaliate. But we are warned – do not presume on God’s patience. Paul writes:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man––you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself––that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is rich in mercy, kindness, forbearance and patience, but this does not mean that he is soft on sin. God’s wrath will be revealed, and if you are presuming on God’s patience, Paul says you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Instead God’s merciful patience has a goal – to lead us to repentance. That’s what Peter is telling us here:

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The delay in the return of Christ and the consequent judgment is due not to slackness but to mercy – mercy toward you, Peter says. These letters were intended to be read in the churches to whom they were addressed. Imagine this church, a church where apostate false teachers possibly held positions of authority, and had gathered a following in their immorality. These were the ones who may have taught on Sunday morning ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ And Peter addresses them; “The Lord is patient toward YOU!” Peter is pointing out to these false teachers and any who have followed their error that God’s delay in coming is meant to give further opportunity for them to repent. God’s heart is indeed abundantly compassionate and merciful and his desire is for their repentance. Repentance – this indicates that their hearts and lives are moving in a direction away from the Lord and they need to forsake the direction they have chosen and turn back. The irony is that they use this merciful delay as a pretense for immorality rather than running for cover to the cross of our Lord Jesus. But God will not postpone his righteous wrath indefinitely. Peter re-affirms that the day of judgment will indeed come:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,

The emphasis is on the certainty of the event – it will come, the day of the Lord. And it will come unexpectedly and catch many off guard. Paul picked up on Jesus’ teaching and compared the coming of the day of the Lord with a thief:

I Thessalonians 5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

The day of the Lord will surely come, and it will come like a thief on those who are not watching and waiting for him. And Peter’s description of what follows is cataclysmic:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

The picture Peter paints is of the layers of atmosphere being peeled away to reveal to the eye of God what is being done by those that live on the earth. The revelation of Jesus Christ given to John paints a very similar picture:

Revelation 6:13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

But Peter’s point (and John’s point) is not to explain exactly how things will unfold in the end times or to give us a detailed sequence of events or to satisfy our curiosity about the makeup of the universe. All God’s truth has a moral purpose. Life as we know it is coming to an end. The earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Every man will stand before the God of the universe and give an account, as it says in Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Peter draws this conclusion:

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be…

Lots of people are curious about eschatology. If we advertise a seminar on the sequence of end time events and the book of Revelation, we can pack out an auditorium. If we hint that we will be suggesting a date, we could even get media coverage. But all that is missing the point! Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? What sort of people ought we to be? Peter doesn’t leave us wondering.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,…

Our lives ought to be characterized by holiness and godliness. Our lives ought to be different from the world around us. Our values ought to be different from the people around us. Our goals and dreams and hopes and desires, our attitudes, our free time, our spending must be different from the world. Peter described us as ‘elect exiles’, ‘sojourners and aliens’. And the standard is God himself. We are to live in such a way that our neighbors observe us and they begin to understand what God is like! Peter wants people to ‘see your good deeds and glorify God’ (1Pet.2:12). Does that feel heavy? Too much? More than we can pull off? Praise God, yes it is!

Peter began the letter pointing us to the fact that ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3). It is through God’s gracious promises – not our own efforts – that we have ‘escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire’ (1:4). Peter went on to describe that the effective fruitful life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ will be characterized by an ever-increasing display of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. And all this is rooted in and stems from faith – trust in the promises that God has freely given to us; promises to transform us from the inside out. Promises to save us from sin and set us free to live lives of radical Christ exalting holiness.

God is not tardy but patient toward you. What sort of people ought we to be?

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Our lives are also to be characterized by waiting – eager expectation – hope. Since we are strangers and aliens, since we are not home yet, there ought to be an ache – a longing in our hearts for home. This world is a mess. This world has been wrecked by the fall, corrupted by sin and it awaits the final judgment, when the Righteous Judge will right all wrongs and make ugly things beautiful again. We are people of the promise – by faith trusting that what he said will happen. Jesus told us that he is going to prepare a place for us – a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is no longer an alien and a stranger, but at home. The new heavens and new earth will be characterized by righteousness. If we want to be at home in the new heavens and new earth, then we must become righteous.

Where is the promise of his coming? When is Jesus coming back? Peter’s answer is ‘sooner, if you will repent!’ If God desires all to come to repentance and he is holding back his wrath to make room for sinners to run to him, then by running to him you will speed up his coming. By pursuing personal transformation and a life of holiness, you will speed his coming. Jesus taught us to pray ‘your kingdom come’ and Jesus responds to the prayers of his people!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 7, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment