Faithlife Sermons

2 Peter 3:11-18

2 Peter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:58
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The purpose of prophetic truth is not speculation but motivation; thus Peter concluded his letter with the kind of practical admonitions that all of us must heed.
It is unfortunate when people run from one prophetic conference to another, filling their notebooks, marking their Bibles, drawing their charts, and yet not living their lives to the glory of God. In fact, some of the saints battle one another more over prophetic interpretation than perhaps any other subject.
All true Christians believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. They may differ in their views of when certain promised events will occur, but they all agree that He is returning as He promised. Furthermore, all Christians agree that this faith in future glory ought to motivate the church. As one pastor said to me, “I have moved off the Planning Committee and joined the Welcoming Committee!” This does not mean that we should stop studying prophecy, or that every opposing viewpoint is correct, which is an impossibility. But it does mean that, whatever views we hold, they ought to make a difference in our lives.
“Be diligent!” is the admonition that best summarizes what Peter wrote in this closing paragraph.
Peter gave three admonitions to encourage the readers in Christian diligence in the light of our Lord’s return.
2 Peter 3:11–14 CSB
11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. 13 But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.
The key word in this paragraph is wait. It means “to await eagerly, to be expectant.” It describes an attitude of excitement and expectation as we wait for the Lord’s return. Because we realize that the world and its works will be dissolved, and that even the very elements will be disintegrated, we fix our hope, not on anything in this world, but only on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because we do not know the day or the hour of our Lord’s return, we must constantly be ready. The believer who starts to neglect the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) will gradually develop a cold heart, a worldly attitude, and an unfaithful life (Luke 12:35–48). If he is not careful, he may even become like the scoffers and laugh at the promise of Christ’s coming.
This expectant attitude ought to make a difference in our personal conduct (2 Peter 3:11). The word translated “sort of person” literally means “exotic, out of this world, foreign.” Because we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world” (2 Peter 1:4), we must live differently from the people in the world. To them, we should behave like foreigners. Why? Because this world is not our home! We are “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) headed for a better world, the eternal city of God. Christians should be different, not odd. When you are different, you attract people; when you are odd, you repel them.
Our conduct should be characterized by holiness and godliness. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [behavior]; because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16). The word holy means “to separate, to cut off.” Israel was a “holy nation” because God called the Jews out from among the Gentiles and kept them separated. Christians are called out from the godless world around them and are set apart for God alone.
The word godliness could be translated “piety.” It is the same word we met in 2 Peter 1:6–7, “to worship well.” It describes a person whose life is devoted to pleasing God. It is possible to be separated from sin positionally and yet not enjoy living for God personally. In the Greek world, the word translated “godliness” meant “respect and awe for the gods and the world they made.” It is that attitude of reverence that says with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Other New Testament writers also teach that an eager expectancy of the Lord’s return ought to motivate us to live pure lives (see Rom. 13:11–14; 2 Cor. 5:1–11; Phil. 3:17–21; 1 Thess. 5:1–11; Titus 2:11–15; 1 John 2:28—3:3). However, it is not simply knowing the doctrine in the mind that motivates the life; it is having it in the heart, loving His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).
VS 12 The word translated “hasting unto” means “hasten” in the other five places where it is used in the New Testament. The shepherds “came with haste” (Luke 2:16). Jesus told Zaccheus to “make haste and come down” and “he made haste and came down” (Luke 19:5–6). Paul “hasted … to be at Jerusalem” (Acts 20:16); and the Lord told Paul to “make haste and get … out of Jerusalem” (22:18). To make this word a synonym for “eager anticipation”
There are two extremes in ministry that we must avoid. One is the attitude that we are locked into God’s sovereign plan in such a way that nothing we do will make any difference. The other extreme is to think that God cannot get anything done unless we do it!
While God’s sovereign decrees must never become an excuse for laziness, neither must our plans and activities try to take their place.
Perhaps two illustrations from Old Testament history will help us better understand the relationship between God’s plans and man’s service. God delivered Israel from Egypt and told the people He wanted to put them into their inheritance, the land of Canaan. But at Kadesh-Barnea all except Moses, Joshua, and Caleb rebelled against God and refused to enter the land (Num. 13—14). Did God force them to go in? No. Instead, He had them wander in the wilderness for the next forty years while the older generation died off. He adjusted His plan to their response.
When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, his message was clear: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4)! It was God’s plan to destroy the wicked city, but when the people repented, from the king on down, God adjusted His plan and spared the city. Neither God nor His basic principles changed, but His application of those principles changed. God responds when men repent.
The same God who ordains the end also ordains the means to the end, and we are a part of that means. Our task is not to speculate but to serve.
Finally, this expectant attitude will make a difference when we meet Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:14). It will mean that He will greet us “in peace” and have no charges against us so that we are “ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28). The judgment seat of Christ will be a serious event (2 Cor. 5:8–11) as we give an account of our service to Him (Rom. 14:10–13). It is better to meet Him “in peace” than for Him to fight against us with His Word (Rev. 2:16)!
If we are diligent to watch for His return and to live holy and godly lives, then we will not be afraid or ashamed. We will meet Him “without spot and blameless.” Jesus Christ is “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), and we should be careful to follow His example. Peter had warned his readers against the defilement that the apostates bring: “Spots they are and blemishes” (2 Peter 2:13). The separated Christian will not permit himself to be “spotted and blemished” by the false teachers! He wants to meet his Lord wearing pure garments.
How do we maintain this eager expectancy that leads to holy living? By keeping “his promise” before our hearts (2 Peter 3:13). The promise of His coming is the light that shines in this dark world (2 Peter 1:19), and we must be sure that “the day star” is aglow in our hearts because we love His appearing.
2 Peter 3:15–16 CSB
15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. 16 He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some things hard to understand in them. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.
Second Peter 3:15 ties in with verse 9, where Peter explained why the Lord had delayed fulfilling His promise. God had every reason long ago to judge the world and burn up its works, but in His mercy, He is longsuffering with us, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This is the day of salvation, not the day of judgment.
Peter made reference to Paul’s writings, because it is Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, who explained God’s plan for mankind during this present age. Especially in Romans and Ephesians. He pointed out that God used the nation Israel to prepare the way for the coming of the Savior. But Israel rejected its King and asked to have Him crucified. Did this destroy God’s plan? Of course not! Today, Israel is set aside nationally, but God is doing a wonderful new thing: He is saving Jews and Gentiles, and making them one in Christ in the church!
For centuries, if a Gentile wanted to be saved, he had to come by way of Israel. This same attitude persisted even in the early church (Acts 15). Paul made it clear that both Jews and Gentiles stand condemned before God and that both must be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, saved Jews and Gentiles belong to the one body, the church. The church is a “mystery” that was hidden in God’s counsels and later revealed through the New Testament prophets and apostles (see Eph. 3).
The Jewish nation was God’s great testimony to law, but the church is His witness for grace (see Eph. 1—2). Law prepared the way for grace, and grace enables us to fulfill the righteousness of the law (Rom. 8:1–5). This does not mean that there was no grace under the old covenant or that new covenant believers are lawless! Anyone who was saved under the administration of law was saved by grace, through faith, as Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 make clear.
Now, unlearned and unstable people have a difficult time understanding Paul’s teachings. Even some learned and stable people who have spiritual discernment can find themselves floundering in great passages like Romans 9— 11! Some Bible students, in their attempt to harmonize seeming contradictions (law and grace, Israel and the church, faith and works), twist the Scriptures and try to make them teach what is really not there. The Greek word translated “twist” means “to torture on the rack, to distort and pervert.”
Even in Paul’s day, there were those who twisted his words and tried to defend their ignorance.
Most heresies are the perversion of some fundamental doctrine of the Bible. False teachers take verses out of context, twist the Scriptures, and manufacture doctrines that are contrary to the Word of God. Peter probably had the false teachers in mind, but the warning is good for all of us. We must accept the teaching of the Scriptures and not try to make them say what we want them to say.
Note that Peter classified Paul’s letters as Scripture, that is, the inspired Word of God.
What happens to people who blindly twist the Scriptures? They do it “unto their own destruction.” Peter was not writing about Christians who have a difficult time interpreting the Word of God, because nobody understands all of the Bible perfectly. He was describing the false teachers who “tortured” the Word of God in order to prove their false doctrines. I once listened to a cultist explain why the group’s leader was the “new Messiah” by manipulating the “weeks” in Daniel 9:23–27. He twisted the prophecy unmercifully!
The word destruction is repeated often in this letter (2 Peter 2:1–3; 3:7, 16). In the King James Version it is translated “damnable,” It means the rejection of eternal life, which results in eternal death.
The false teachers are multiplying, and their pernicious doctrines are infecting the church. God needs separated men and women who will resist them, live godly lives, and bear witness of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The time is short!
2 Peter 3:17–18 CSB
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stable position. 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.
Beloved … beware (v. 17).
The word translated “beware” means “be constantly guarding yourself.” Peter’s readers knew the truth, but he warned them that knowledge alone was not sufficient protection. They had to be on their guard; they had to be alert. It is easy for people who have a knowledge of the Bible to grow overconfident and to forget the warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
What special danger did Peter see? That the true believers would be “led away together with the error of the wicked” (literal translation). He is warning us against breaking down the walls of separation that must stand between the true believers and the false teachers. There can be no communion between truth and error. The apostates “live in error” (2 Peter 2:18), while true believers live in the sphere of the truth (2 John 1–2).
The word wicked (2 Peter 3:17) means “the lawless.” Peter’s description of the apostates in 2 Peter 2 reveals how lawless they are. They even speak evil of the authorities that seek to enforce God’s law in this world (vv. 10–11)! They promise their converts freedom (v. 19), but that freedom turns out to be lawlessness.
True Christians cannot fall from salvation and be lost, but they can fall from their own “stable position.” What was this stable position? Being “established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12). The stability of the Christian comes from his faith in the Word of God, his knowledge of that Word, and his ability to use that Word in the practical decisions of life.
One of the great tragedies of evangelism is bringing “spiritual babies” into the world and then failing to feed them, nurture them, and help them develop. The apostates prey on young believers who have “very recently escaped” from the ways of error (2 Peter 2:18). New believers need to be taught the basic doctrines of the Word of God; otherwise, they will be in danger of being “led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17).
How can we as believers maintain our stable position and avoid being among the “unstable souls” who are easily beguiled and led astray? By growing spiritually. “But be constantly growing” is the literal translation. We should not grow in spurts, but in a constant experience of development.
We must grow “in grace.” This has to do with Christian character traits, the very things Peter wrote about in 2 Peter 1:5–7 and that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:22–23. We were saved by grace (Eph. 2:8–9), but grace does not end there! We must also be strengthened by grace (2 Tim. 2:1–4). God’s grace can enable us to endure suffering (2 Cor. 12:7–10). His grace also helps us to give when giving is difficult (2 Cor. 8:1ff.) and to sing when singing is difficult (Col. 3:16).
Growing in grace often means experiencing trials and even suffering. We never really experience the grace of God until we are at the end of our own resources. The lessons learned in the “school of grace” are always costly lessons, but they are worth it. To grow in grace means to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom we receive all the grace that we need (John 1:16).
We must also grow in knowledge. How easy it is to grow in knowledge but not in grace! All of us know far more of the Bible than we really live. Knowledge without grace is a terrible weapon, and grace without knowledge can be very shallow. But when we combine grace and knowledge, we have a marvelous tool for building our lives and for building the church.
But note that we are challenged to grow, not just in knowledge of the Bible, as good as that is, but “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is one thing to “know the Bible,” and quite another thing to know the Son of God, the central theme of the Bible. The better we know Christ through the Word, the more we grow in grace; the more we grow in grace, the better we understand the Word of God.
So, the separated Christian must constantly be guarding himself, lest he be led away into error; he also must be constantly growing in grace and knowledge. This requires diligence! It demands discipline and priorities. Nobody automatically drifts into spiritual growth and stability, but anybody can drift out of dedication and growth. “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1 NASB). Just as the boat needs the anchor, so the Christian needs the Word of God.
Physical growth and spiritual growth follow pretty much the same pattern. To begin with, we grow from the inside out. “As newborn babes” is the way Peter illustrated it (1 Peter 2:2). The child of God is born with everything he needs for growth and service (2 Peter 1:3). All he needs is the spiritual food and exercise that will enable him to develop. He needs to keep clean. We grow by nutrition, not by addition!
We grow best in a loving family, and this is where the local church comes in.
A baby needs a family for protection, provision, and affection. Studies show that babies who are raised alone, without special love, tend to develop physical and emotional problems very early. The church is God’s “nursery” for the care and feeding of Christians, the God-ordained environment that encourages them to grow.
It is important that we grow in a balanced way. The human body grows in a balanced way with the various limbs working together; likewise the “spiritual man” must grow in a balanced way. We must grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), for example. We must keep a balance between worship and service, between faith and works. A balanced diet of the whole Word of God helps us to maintain a balanced life.
It is the Holy Spirit of God who empowers and enables us to keep things in balance. Before Peter was filled with the Spirit, he was repeatedly going to extremes. He would bear witness to Christ one minute and then try to argue with the Lord the next (Matt. 16:13–23)! He refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, and then he wanted to be washed all over (John 13:6–10)! He promised to defend the Lord and even die with Him, yet he did not have the courage to own the Lord before a little servant girl! But when he was filled with the Spirit, Peter began to live a balanced life that avoided impulsive extremes.
What is the result of spiritual growth? Glory to God! “To Him be glory both now and forever.” It glorifies Jesus Christ when we keep ourselves separated from sin and error. It glorifies Him when we grow in grace and knowledge, for then we become more like Him (Rom. 8:29). In his life and even in his death, Peter glorified God (John 21:18–19).
As you review this important epistle, you cannot help but be struck by the urgency of the message. The apostates are here! They are busy! They are seducing immature Christians! We must be guarding, growing, and glorifying the Lord, making the most of every opportunity to win the lost and strengthen the saved.
Be diligent! The ministry you save may be your own!

Next: 2 John July 8th

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