Controlled by Divine Truth, 2 Peter 3
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
Peter gives a timely word for today. The knowledge of Christ should mould our habits and prepare us for His soon return. The doctrine of false teachers in relation to our Lord's return was dangerous and sceptical. The promise of His return should become a radiant reality, and a reason for holy behaviour during the short time we are left in this world. His coming is remembered, vv. 1-2; ridiculed, vv. 3-4; is reliable, vv. 5-9; seems delayed, vv. 10-12; and is recognized by devotion, diligence and deportment, vv. 14-18.
The Thoughts of the Pastor, vv. 1-2. Peter opens this new section with a word of encouragement which is affectionate and practical. He claims divine origin for his, and the other apostles', writings. They are placed on a level with the Old Testament writings. He arouses these saints thoroughly to the dangers within and the difficulties without. There is ever present the duty of remembrance, and the peril of forget-fulness. The conjunction of "prophets" and "apostles" indicates that the prophets are New Testament prophets; cf. Eph. 2. 20; 3. 5; 4. 11.
The Taunts of the Scoffer, vv. 3-4.
Dangers ahead must be faced. These scoffers are marked by sinfulness and scepticism, and are already present, v. 3. Neither human agreement with, nor antagonism against, can fulfil or frustrate the purpose of God. These scoffers hate the truth of His coming, because it interferes with their own selfish desires and sordid living. Notice how invariably impure living is joined with heretical teaching.
Thorough Exposure, vv. 5-7. Peter shows the unreality and deliberate sin of the attitude of the scoffers. A wilful ignoring of the great deluge is an accompaniment of scoffing and denial. Their sneer is, "It will never happen". They question the veracity of God's Word; yet the truth of the second advent is in almost every book of the Old and New Testaments. It may be derided, but to laugh at a thing does not make it any the less real. How long you have to wait for the "day" makes no difference, v. 8. The wicked of a bygone age did not escape the water, v. 6, nor will the wicked of a coming day escape the fire, v. 7.
The assumption of these men is refuted by Bible history, vv. 5-6, and Bible prophecy, v. 7.
The Teaching of Scripture, vv. 8-10. Do not be perplexed by the delay. You can rely on the wisdom, mercy and righteousness of God, vv. 8-10. Wilful men usually deny truth that they do not understand. Peter shows that God works in eternity, and is not bound by time limitations as is man, v. 8. The delay is not due to God's sloth, but to His mercy. He does not wish any man to perish, cf. 1 Tim. 2. 4; Rom. 11. 32. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, 1 Pet. 3.20.
This is the day of God's mercy, that is why He tolerates human suffering; He is not cruel, He is kind.
Note the certainty of the coming, "will come"; its character, "as a thief"; and the consequences of the coming, "the elements shall melt".
Suddenly, quickly, and speedily refer to the nature of the event, more than to the time factor. For "as a thief", see Luke 12. 39, 40; 1 Thess. 5. 2; Rev. 3. 3; 16.15.
The day of the Lord is marked by the dissolution of heavenly things, and a dissolving of earthly elements. This "day" is always associated with terror and judgment, Isa. 2. 12.
Time for Sobriety, vv. 11-13. The
day of the Lord refers to His judgments that precede the millennium, Rev. 6-19; the day of God is the ushering in of eternity, when God shall be "all in all",
1 Cor. 15. 28. With the dissolution of the present order, v. 11, there is the introduction of a new order, v. 13.
These great events should produce godliness of character, and holiness of conduct in the saint who longs for the return of the Lord. It leads us to sobriety, and a godly walk, expressed in complete separation from all evil. The glorious advent brings brightness and buoyancy into life, and cheers our hearts amid the gloom of this age. We are exhorted to live spotless lives, free from sin-spots and world-spots of all kinds.
This is man's day, yet it is the day of salvation, 1 Cor. 4. 3; 2 Cor. 6. 2. Christ's day is the day of glorification,
2 Thess. 2. 2; the day of the Lord is the day of tribulation, and the day of God is the day of realization and satisfaction.
The basis of our hope is the sure word of God, v. 13.
True Spiritual Growth, vv. 14-18.
The practical aim of the passage and of the Epistle is toward intelligent, stable, consistent Christian character and conduct. We have at least three obligations in view of the second advent, they are: "know", "show" and "grow".
Chapter 1 stresses knowledge that is Christ-centred and full. The times call for maturity in faith, a grasp of deeper doctrines, an ability to receive strong meat. We need Bible men; "without spot" is an external feature, "without blemish" is internal, "peace" is personal and communal. Reverence and patience are also expected from us, vv. 11, 15. The look of hope must produce the life of holiness, v. 14.
We understand that our Lord's long-suffering is designed for the salvation of sinners, v. 15a.
Peter was conversant with Paul's Epistles and bears testimony to the value and veracity of Paul's writings. They are inspired of God, equal scripturally with the Old Testament books. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets was active in Paul and Peter.
The false teachers twist Paul's teaching; they also twist other Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament. They did not submit their actions to the searching scrutiny of the Word.
The Epistle ends, where it began, with the subject of growth and progress. The late John Ritchie said, "the Christian life is like riding a bicycle, unless you keep moving, you fall off".
Its development consists in getting to know in greater measure our inexhaustible Lord and Saviour. Grow in grace by reading the Word daily, by prayer, by the direct use of every means of grace. The benediction is delightful, v. 18b; to Christ belongs the glory for ever. Glory is given to Him not only as the One equal with God essentially, but as the glorified One now in heaven, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The false teachers detracted from Christ's glory by a wicked life, and by denying His coming. Peter determined to reverse both trends; may we follow his example and teaching, and glorify God daily until that great "day".
Glimpses of Christ. Trace in this Epistle His essential deity, eternal relationship, effective cross-work, exaltation in glory, and the establishing of His everlasting kingdom.
He effects our salvation because He is God our Saviour, 1. 11; 2. 20; 3. 2,18. Saviour is one of the great names of God in the Old Testament. He is our Lord, and deserves our consecration, 1. 2. He wrought our redemption, and we belong to Him, 2. 1; 1 Cor. 6. 20. He gave revelation to Peter of his own decease, 2 Pet. 1. 14.
A glimpse of His kingdom glory was seen on the holy mount; it was marked by majesty. This kingdom is eternal; it belongs to Him, Matt. 16. 28; it is still future and entered by relationship to Him, 2 Pet. 1. 11. He is the Messianic Son associated with, and acknowledged by, the Father, 1.17; Heb. 1. 5.
We look forward to the kingdom, the day of the Lord, 2 Pet. 3. 10; the day of God, 3. 12; a new heaven and earth, 3. 13, in which our Lord will be the Centre and glory.
The papers on Jude will follow in the January and March 1977 issues, D.V.
As we go to press, news has just reached us of the homecall on June 10th of our brother Mr. Charles Gahan, founder and secretary of Precious Seed 1945-1972. A tribute to his memory will be published in our next issue.
"Whose faith follow".