Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11th - Conclusion to Second Peter

Prayer Requests
Swift Cantrel Witnessing
Lake Acworth Witnessing
Lucas in Indonesia
Nelly's Family

Text –2 Peter 3:14-18

Here we arrive at the end of this glorious epistle. Before now I have refrained from telling you that some “scholars” believe Peter didn’t actually write this letter and they think it shouldn’t be in the Bible. The reasons for this are dumb and not worth mentioning, but now that we’ve spent several weeks on this epistle, I hope that you see that it is ingeniously written and is certainly written by God through Peter. If you have any doubt at all, the way in which Peter wraps this epistle up is so well written and powerful that it so thoroughly points to scriptural truths that it has to be scripture.

One of my facebook friends posted an awesome quote this week which said, “Man could not write a book like the Bible, but if man could write a book like the Bible, he wouldn’t write a book like the Bible.” The rhetorical, eternal, and grammatical truths which Peter shares in his short 61 verses are utterly amazing and they point so thoroughly to divine authorship that I am quite tempted to say Second Peter is my favorite book of the Bible.

What event was happening in Peter’s life that caused him to write this letter? He was awaiting execution under Nero. So knowing he is not long for this world, what does he tell us about? What would you tell someone if you were dying next week? Would you talk about movies you’ve seen or what you’re going to have for lunch, or would you make it count? Peter makes it count, what are the four major things he wants us to know?

1. How to be sure you’re saved.
2. The Bible is the sole authority in our faith and practice
3. False teachers will teach apart from the Bible
4. Christ will win and we will partake in his victory

These four things come together BEAUTIFULLY in Peter’s closing, it is a masterful bit of writing. Let’s read 2 Peter 1:1-3:13 though since this is the conclusion to the letter, and the passage we’re looking at starts with “therefore”, which points back to the whole letter, not just the last couple of sentences. This is just like Paul’s therefore in Romans 12:1, he’s not saying, “Therefore, from chapter 11,” he’s saying, “Therefore from everything that precedes.” Here is Peter doing the same thing. (2 Peter 1-3) So now let’s read the conclusion,

2 Peter 3:14-18 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

So Peter is going to make 4 major points in his conclusion, the same major points he’s made already in the letter. First of all we want to make sure we’re a Christian; how do we do that? Is it by praying a prayer or signing a card or dating the front page of our Bible? No, it is by growing in grace, by seeing fruit added to our faith. The way we know we are saved is that we are diligent in our waiting for Christ, growing in sanctification, grace, and knowledge. If we are growing in these things, we know we have faith in Christ, and this faith is a result of the grace by which we are saved.

Next is what? Read your Bible. Peter puts it AWESOMELY,

v.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…

First of all, which verse is he quoting? There is a huge debate on this, but I guarantee you it is,

Romans 2:4 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?

Why doesn’t Peter say, “In Romans 2:4”? Because our chapter/verse break-ups weren’t added until AD 1558, they are not scripture and they are not inspired, so we need to read complete thoughts and not verses. The Bible is not a collection of Bible verses; it is a collection of coherent thoughts all pointing at revealing one thing: Christ.

But check this out! Peter just called Paul’s writings scripture! This is the standard way of referencing a verse before the chapter/verse beak-ups.

Romans 15:12 And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope."

Our Bible was pretty well complete by the end of the First Century, but there are rumors that the Bible wasn’t put together until the Council of Carthage in 397, but that is only when it was declared official…it had been together since the First Century, even as early as the late 60’s (save for John’s Epistles and Gospel which hadn’t been written yet).

Is Peter only saying that one of Paul’s verses was scripture, or the whole collection?

v.16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.

Do you think Paul read this letter and was shocked that Peter was calling his writing scripture? Not in the least. Last year we went through First Thessalonians, do you remember what was special about that Epistle concerning scripture? It is the only New Testament book that doesn’t quote the Old Testament a single time. There is one major reason for that, that this church was heavily persecuted and all of the Jewish believers had either been killed or run out of town. In this, the Old Testament scrolls were either unobtainable or unreadable…so what does Paul say in that Epistle?

1 Thessalonians 5:27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

Paul knew as early as AD51 that he was writing scripture, since the standard practice was to read the scriptures in the synagogue/church. I wonder what it was like for him to be writing things like this. He wouldn’t be able to make a mistake or erase anything, and the words would have flowed out of his pen.

2 Peter 1:21 …men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Carried along by the Holy Spirit, like if you went swimming in a swift moving river, you’re going to end up where that river wants you to end up. But despite the truth of Paul’s writing, there is another force working in this, men who want to misinterpret this Word.

2 Peter 1:20 no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.

Before we look at the next verse I need to preface it with an illustration. Would anyone in this class like to be taller? Ok, here’s what I want you to do, lay on this coffee table and I’m going to pull on your feet and someone else is going to pull on your hands and we’re going to stretch you out to be taller. What sort of effect is this going to have? At best no effect, and at worst we might break you. Look at what false teachers are doing to the Bible!

v.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.

The word for twist is torture, or stretch, it’s trying to make someone taller by pulling on their hands and feet, it’s not an effective way to change a person or the Bible! Who is in danger if we try to stretch you? You are. But look at who is in danger if they torture the Bible to make it say things it doesn’t? It is their own destruction. Peter is pretty harsh again in his description of false teachers, before he called them dogs and pigs, waterless springs, blots and blemishes, terrible sinners, and reprobate for Hell. We saw in chapter 3 that many of these people would claim to be smart, but here Peter calls them ignorant and unstable. The word for ignorant, or unlearned, is purposefully meant to contrast the believer, who adds knowledge to their faith through learning, where-as the false teacher has no faith and does not have knowledge of God. Peter is not alone in being harsh, Paul says,

Romans 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Literally Paul calls them morons here, simpletons; not by birth, but by choice.

And again Peter affirms that Paul’s writings are scripture, and should be paid attention to, which is important because it will keep us on solid ground.

v.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 think you can make a solid argument here that Peter is elevating his own writing to scripture as well, he knows he couldn’t write such an amazingly God glorifying letter like this, but that the Holy Spirit is writing through him. Because remember in chapter 1,

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

That’s this letter! He is giving us a reminder that will keep us holding to our confession, so that we follow Christ and not strange teachings of false-teachers who will preach apart from the scriptures. One of our great tests of scripture is that if it is all written by one person, the Holy Spirit, as it claims to be, then it will all agree and be without contradiction.

Peter can also be said to be quoting Paul in Ephesians 4:13-14 where Paul said through several things, namely unity in the church and the knowledge of the Son of God, we will not be unstable in strange doctrines, and later he says that we will have a steadfast anchor of our soul, the hope of Christ’s atoning death and saving resurrection.

This unity which Paul desired is totally amazing in that Peter is calling Paul his “beloved brother” because Paul was pretty harsh with Peter when Peter had fallen into error in Jerusalem, look at how Paul confronted Peter (Cephas),

Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 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?"

But one of the most loving things we can do is correct someone when they are going astray. Proverbs puts this exceedingly beautifully,

Proverbs 27:6-7 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

All of this points us at holiness,

v.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Once again this goes back to our first point, how to know you’re a Christian, and it is the summation of the entire letter basically; if we are growing in grace then we know we are in grace. For example, if I plant an apple tree in my front yard and water it and take care of it and it grows up and starts producing crunchy brown apples which taste terrible and have barbs on them and for all intents and purposes look like pine-cones, then do you think that tree is an apple tree?

An apple tree should produce apples, a Christian should produce fruit of the Spirit, summed up in grace. Peter is totally concerned with one of these fruits being knowledge of Christ. It’s not just knowledge, there are a lot of smart people who are totally separated from Christ, who though they know a lot of things are as Paul calls them, morons. Our knowledge needs to be in Christ, and that through our Bible. As our knowledge increases in Christ, our ability to discern liars and heretics will greatly increase;

Hebrews 5:14 Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

I heard a great quote on the radio this week, the host was putting forth a hypothetical situation of a Christian standing before God, and God asks, “I gave you 70 years and you couldn’t read one book?” We need to constantly be in our Bibles because it is the only way which God reveals himself in these latter days.

And our last point, of the surety of victory, comes in our benediction,

v.18 To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Christ is in control now, even though it looks out of control. Why doesn’t God wipe the world out? It’s because if he did he wouldn’t see every saint come to repentance, we see he is being glorified in his patience just as he will be glorified in Christ’s return, which Peter here calls the day of eternity, the day time ends; the day of his return and judgment of the world in righteousness.

So that is Second Peter, it is an awesome letter, I want to show you three more scriptures that will drive these points home. The first is in Exodus where Moses goes up on Mount Sinai, the people revolt, and God prepares to crush them,

Exodus 32:9-14 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you." But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'" And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

God was totally ready to crush Israel for their sins, but Moses interceded and lengthened God’s patience because if he had crushed Israel, his promises and his patience would have been doubted. He has promised Christ a certain number of saints and if he sent Christ back early then saints would perish outside of salvation. Today Christ, not Moses, is our intercessor.

(Time necessitated we end here, next week we will look at Psalm 62 which will continue the theme)