Tuesday, March 22, 2011

II Peter 3:17 Four Imperatives of a Forward Looking Faith Part III

The Bible is a simple yet complicated book. It’s simple enough that there is truth that a child can understand yet complicated to the point that men and women have devoted their whole to the study of it and still feel they have barely scratched the surface of what’s there. Because of its simplicity and its profundity, the Bible touches all believers that study it. In fact, I would dare say that no one can truly study scripture, come face to face with the truth it reveals, and walk away unchanged. The truth of God’s word should change how we think and how we live. As Peter has noted in these concluding verses of his second epistle, because of the truth of God’s word our faith is a forward looking faith—we look to the future where sin will be done away with and Christ will reign to the glory of God the Father. To that end, Peter gives us here two last imperatives of a forward looking faith.

The first of these imperatives comes as a warning in verse 17—“be on your guard”. Notice further in the verse that Peter’s audience, and by implication us as well, have motivation to be on guard (present tense in the Greek—better translated “be on your guard continually”). They have been forewarned about the false teachers and heresy that is coming and therefore they “[know] this beforehand.” Now, I grew up in South Alabama and we had hurricanes occasionally. One in particular was pretty devastating but one thing that I learned was you are given fair warning. Like 2 days out they are able to predict with a fair degree of accuracy where that sucker is going to hit so if you’re in a mobile home or a low lying area you should have time to get someplace safe. Generally speaking, you have ample time to prepare. Now, Peter has written this book warning them that “there will also be false teachers among you” (2:1) and he has even told them the sorts of lies they would teach (3:3). Therefore, as a result of knowing what was coming, Peter gives them a command to “be on [their] guard”—they are to act as spiritual night watchmen, looking out for danger because, rest assured, danger is coming.

They need to be on guard because these false teachers could seduce them with false teaching. His readers, if they are not watchful, could be “carried away by the error of unprincipled men”. These unprincipled (lawless) men would come and teach doctrine that was contrary to the truth that had been taught by Peter and the other apostles. Their “error” would be presented by these false teachers as if it were true and if accepted by the church would put the souls of men and women in danger—the gospel saves, false doctrine does not. Because of that, it was paramount that these believers, and those of us reading Peter’s letter today as well, stay on their toes and be on the lookout for false doctrine so that it didn’t pollute the life saving message of the gospel.

Now, if these people to whom Peter wrote were to be deceived and follow these false teachers (which I’m sure happened then and certainly happens now) it would mean them “fall[ing] from [their] own steadfastness”. That steadfastness, of course, was the bedrock truth of God’s word. False doctrine provides no support, no foundation for anything. In contrast, the truth of scripture is a solid rock on which to build (Matthew 7:24-26) and no one who builds on it will be ashamed. The way to prevent falling for a slick snake oil salesman peddling false doctrine, then, is to study the scriptures and by studying them come to know more fully the God of the Bible.

Friends, false doctrine was not just a problem in the early church. As we have seen in recent days, it’s a problem here and now. Just like Peter, I exhort you to cling to the truth of God’s word. There is no better way to defend yourself against the lies of Satan than studying the truth of God’s word.

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