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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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 ~

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