I took a class last fall called “The Doctrine of Scripture” and learned that theologians describe the word of God as having four attributes which I remember by using the acrostic CANS—Clarity, Authority, Necessity, and Sufficiency. In our previous examination we noted that Peter taught in the 15th verse of this chapter as well as the first part of verse 16 that scripture has authority. In other words, when we read scripture we’re not only reading something Paul, Peter, or Moses wrote (or dictated as the case may be) but we are reading the very words of God and, as such, those words have authority. To disobey the word of God is to disobey God and incur the consequences of that disobedience. As we continue to examine verse 16, we will see that Peter refers to another attribute of scripture—its clarity.
For instance, Peter says that Paul writes things in his epistles and that “some things are hard to understand”. Now, as one reads through scripture, the find cause frequently to give a hearty “Amen” to Peter’s statement. I mean, bless Paul’s heart, the man could start a sentence at the beginning of a chapter, interrupt himself 3 times, and not finish the sentence till nearly the end of the chapter. Not only is his writing “thick” and hard to wade through sometimes, but he tackled the most complex theological topics ever and for thousands of year’s people have being trying to sort them out. The doctrine of election is one such doctrine. The state of Israel and the church (Romans 9-11) is another. Furthermore, it’s not just Paul’s writings that have difficult subjects but the entire Bible has difficulties that have challenged men and women with more intellect that I’ve got. The fact is there are things in the Bible that are “hard to understand”.
But not all of it is hard. Notice, Peter says “some” of these topics in Paul’s writings are hard to understand. There is material that even a child can grasp in the pages of scripture—truths that can lead that little one to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In short, we can see here that scripture has the attribute of clarity. However, it is not all equally clear. We can understand some parts pretty easily while others are a challenge that we can spend our entire lives wrestling with. The fact is, the difficulties in the text does not mean that the Lord does not speak clearly in scripture. It means that our minds are finite and there are some things we will never be able to grasp here in this life.
However, the difficulties in scripture, while they give us the opportunity to spend a lifetime learning new things about God, also present a danger. Some people take the word of God and “distort” (literally—twist as on a torture rack) it for their own purposes (2:3). Peter uses two words to describe these deceivers: “untaught” and “unstable”. He’s already used the term “unstable” in 2:14. Rather than having a solid foundation of sure, biblical truth, these false teachers standing on their false doctrine are unstable like the man in Matthew 7 who rejected the words of Jesus and found his house (life) built on shifting sands. Further, Peter refers to them as untaught. Now, this might seem kind of funny coming from a professional fisherman. Peter was not a trained theologian. He didn’t go to seminary. Certainly, like all Jewish boys, he had some religions education but he was not a Pharisee or a scribe. In fact, in Acts, the religious leaders observed that he, James, and John were men without learning (Acts 4:13). I know there are a good number of people with lots of degrees from seminaries who don’t know the Lord Jesus as Savior but actually deny the gospel. Therefore, I don’t think Peter is here teaching us that we have to have advanced degrees to read and understand scripture. I think when he says “untaught” he means undisciplined in thinking a certain way. Before we are saved and before the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts, we can only think and perceive things like a totally depraved sinner. However, after we are reborn and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are able to begin to truly understand biblical truth (I Cor 2:14-15).
As we reflect on these truths, we should remember most of all the point Peter leaves us with in this verse. These false teachers employ their scripture twisting techniques to their own harm. Ultimately, their rejection of the truth will end in their “own destruction”. God will judge those who reject the truth. Those who ignore the clarity and authority of scripture do so to the own ultimate doom.