“… even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.”
The apostle Peter is inspired to conclude his second epistle to new Christians with an appeal that they be stable and endure. He knows that there is a danger that they faint and be led away. He fervently desires that they be established in the truth (II Pet. 1:12). To that end he has been assuring them that things will not continue without an end and that there will be a divine judgment in which all things will be set right. He writes to the end that they may patiently endure and not fall away.
The key to the possession and practice of patient endurance is the knowledge of God’s Word. Thus Peter speaks of the Scriptures as they came through his spiritual brother Paul (II Pet. 1:15, 16). A knowledge of God’s Word prepares us to face the future. It alerts us to dangers that will come. It equips us with the ability to be steadfast in the face of what could be difficult times.
In these verses, Christian believers are encouraged to be in the Scriptures, for they are the source of steadfastness. As we begin a new year we too have reason to give ourselves to the study of the Scriptures, which enables us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why is the admonition to be steadfast necessary and important?
First, there is the apparent delay in the Lord’s coming. Because Jesus did not come back as soon as they anticipated, the young Christians of Peter’s day began to question what they had been taught about Jesus’ return. They were beginning to be very fearful. Peter assured them of two things: 1) the importance of remembering what they knew and had learned from the apostles (II Pet. 1:12-15; II Pet. 3:1, 2); and 2), the fact that history shows that God knows how to deliver the godly and to reserve the unjust for punishment (II Pet. 2:9).
Second, the need to be steadfast arises from the fact that Christians of every age must deal with the pernicious influence of false teachers and scoffers (II Pet. 2:1, 3:3). The “error of the wicked” that Peter speaks of in our text discourages and weakens believers.
Finally, we are always in need of the admonition to be steadfast, given our natural instability (the depravity of our old man of sin). We can be very energetic and diligent when it comes to material things, but unstable and lazy with regard to spiritual matters. We are easily distracted from setting our affections on the things above and the inheritance to come, focusing instead on the things that are here and now. We can read the Bible and fail to grow in the fear of God. We can easily sing the words of Scripture without understanding. We can have knowledge in pride and without love (I Cor. 8:1, 2; I Cor. 13:8).
As we begin a new year, let us have no doubt that we need the admonition to be steadfast!
How do we resist constant temptations in light of natural weakness, and how do we remain steadfast and firm? Read the Scriptures! Know what they say. As we live and walk in the midst of this present evil age, we ought not listen to what men have to say. Rather we ought to go to the Scriptures, to see the truth presented and expounded there, and then to hold it for truth and walk in the light of it.
For the saints of Peter’s day the “scriptures” consisted of the Old Testament writings. Every Christian believer held that the “other scriptures” were uniquely inspired by God and given by Him. Now notice that Peter is inspired to urge these Christians to read also Paul’s epistles as well, and he words this in such a way that Paul’s epistles are said to be of authority equal to that of “the other (Old Testament) scriptures.” And notice further that Peter is writing in such a way to commend to Christians his own epistle, as having an equally authoritative source of right knowledge. He began this letter by identifying himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1), to whom right knowledge had been given (II Pet. 1:12-21). Peter gave an explanation of history that took place 2,500 years earlier. In and of himself he had no knowledge or understanding of this history. But he spoke of the flood and of the future destruction of this world as one who had been given wisdom from above, just as Paul spoke “according to the wisdom given unto him” (15). No wonder Peter wrote that he, and Paul, were not following cunningly devised fables (II Pet. 1:16), or human views and philosophies, but divine inspiration (given wisdom).
The writings of Paul and Peter are to be viewed as equally inspired and trustworthy. Right knowledge is to be learned from them as well as from the “other scriptures.” And this right knowledge is what equipped the saints of Peter’s day, and equips the saints of our day to be able to stand, and to withstand all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
Because we believe the Scriptures are divinely inspired, we ought to base our life on them. They are to determine what we believe—both what we believe to be true and what we believe to be false. These Scriptures are also to determine how we live. They will correctly identify sin and good works, the person and deity of Jesus Christ, His work of salvation, etc.
We either believe and accept the Scriptures as a revelation from God, or we trust in human ideas and draw our own conclusions. No other book in all the world is like the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Nothing else gives so much satisfactory knowledge and understanding. The Scriptures’ divine inspiration makes them qualified to be the basis for what we believe and how we live. They give to us full information. All we need to know concerning faith and life is found in them. These are the only writings that help us interpret the past, enable us to deal with the present, and equip us for the future. They foretell perilous times, false teachers, and very great deceptions. They explain the apparent delay of Jesus’ return. They explain that God has a purpose in it all, and they give a glimpse of the glory to come. They tell us of our security in Jesus, even in the face of the burning of everything of this life (world).
Our text gives us reason to be very grateful that we have an infallible guide as we walk through the shadowed valley of this life. However, this valuable gift and tool must be handled in the right way and with great care. It is not enough just to read the Scriptures, or to know their contents. Some mishandle them. Some mishandle especially the hard to understand parts, and when they do so it leads to their own destruction. Just because the Scriptures are the Word of God Himself, if they are not handled properly, then this mishandling results in the destruction of the reader. To show how serious this is, let us realize that the same word translated “destruction” in verse 16 is translated “perdition” in verse 7. The reference is to eternal misery in hell. The wrong handling of the Scriptures can be most serious.
There are some examples that demonstrate this harsh reality. There were some men, for instance, who took the doctrine of gracious justification as a license to sin (Rom. 6:1; I Pet. 2:16). Others took the instruction concerning the soon return of Jesus to give them the right to cease their daily employment (II Thess. 2:2, 3 and II Thess. 3:11).
Read and understand the Scriptures carefully. The care that must be used when handling the Holy Scriptures is “with all readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). This is a willingness to learn that is always accompanied with humility. This readiness of mind to learn is with the understanding that by itself “knowledge puffeth up” and that “if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know it” (I Cor. 8:1, 2). Readiness of mind does not approach the Bible in order to support one’s own ideas, but reads and hears the Word always willing to be taught new depths and better perspectives.
The right and careful reading of the Scriptures is in the awareness that the Scriptures have been handled by the church of the past, which church has summarized their understanding of the Scriptures in the creeds of the church. Anyone reading the divine Scriptures in the twenty-first century should be aware whether his understanding of a Scripture teaching conflicts with the understanding of the church of the past.
The right and careful reading of the Scriptures requires that the Scriptures be taken as a whole, with every part being understood in light of the rest. A passage may not be taken out of its immediate context, nor out of the context of the whole of the Scriptures. The proper reading of the Scriptures takes into consideration that they form a beautiful whole.
As we begin a new year, let us be constantly aware of threats to move us into the error of the wicked. Let us strive constantly to be steadfast. And let us realize that this steadfastness comes from the Scriptures, God’s holy Word. Let us be aware that these Scriptures can be easily mishandled, which can lead to one’s destruction. So let us resolve again to handle the Holy Scriptures with care, that is, with all readiness of mind!