Standing in the True Grace of God, Lesson 25

Originally posted May 4, 2018, at Women of Purpose.

This is the final week of our study, and Peter finishes his epistle with strength and conviction. Urging his readers to remain steadfast in their faith and in the truth of God’s Word, based on what God has done for us in Christ, he begins this final section with a “therefore.” This reminds us to look back and consider the context of what he has already written to understand what he is writing here at the end.

Peter has just emphasized, in verses 10 and 13, that the old earth and heavens will pass away and the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells will be established at last. He has told us this to encourage us to holy living, in contrast to the false teachers and scoffers who, because they do not believe that Christ is returning or that there will be a judgement at the last day, are living lives of blasphemous debauchery.

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (14)

Peter’s exhortation that we be diligent to be found by Christ without spot or blemish and at peace may set off alarms in our hearts and minds if we forget how he began this epistle. We are unable to live this way without God first working in us, because, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1:3). We don’t make ourselves spotless and blemish-free, that is the work of our Savior:

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

We can’t cleanse ourselves, but, together with the Lord, we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). This is the mystery of sanctification: God’s grace enabling and working in us / our responsibility to obey and press forward in the good works which God has prepared beforehand for we who are his workmanship (Eph. 2:10).

And just as we can’t cleanse ourselves, neither can we initiate the peace to which Peter exhorts us. We have gained this peace from the same source as our cleansing, our beloved peacemaking Savior:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:13-19)

Through Christ we have peace with one another and with God. By his sacrifice of himself he tore down the sin-barrier that stood between us and our God, and between one another. Once, we were enemies with God and one another, now we are his beloved children, reconciled to him through the cross, and we are fellow citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, reconciled to one another as members of the household of God. This is a gift which he has given us, and Peter tells us to be diligent to live in the reality of who we are: reconciled citizens and children of the King.

We are anticipating no less than heaven, and, “if the believers look forward to living eternally in a “home of righteousness” on the new earth, then already on this earth they ought to practice righteousness… the righteousness that characterizes the sinless environment of the saints in the day of the Lord (v. 13) already must be at work in the hearts and lives of the redeemed.”[1]

Putting this into practice takes effort on our part, and fortunately the Lord has given us the means of grace and plentiful instruction to help us, much of which we have already covered in this study:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Col. 1:9-12)

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)

Yes, living like children of the King takes effort, but if we keep our goal in view it is not only worth it, it makes perfect sense! Looking forward to the new heavens and new earth is no mere intellectual exercise, it is a real and solid hope and our future home.

“The New Testament never appeals for morality and ethics and conduct and behavior in and of itself. Never! The New Testament never asks men to live a good life merely for the sake of living a good life. Its appeal on these lines is always in terms of this ‘blessed hope’… Peter says this is logic—there is no need to argue about it, it is inevitable, it is so absolutely reasonable. If you say that the thing you are looking for, and waiting for and expecting, is a world in which there is righteousness and no sin, how can you continue to do that which belongs to the realm of sin? It is a self-contradiction… The Christian appeal is this—you claim that you are children of God, you say that you believe this gospel; very well, if you really believe that, it is time you began to prepare for it.”[2]

Our hope for our future home provides ample motivation, yes. But our goal isn’t only a destination, ultimately, our goal is a person:

“We shall see Him, the Blessed Son of God, who, though He was equal with the Father and co-eternal, there enjoying the everlasting bliss of eternity, came out of it and humbled Himself, emptied Himself, divested Himself of the insignia of His glory and became man on the face of this earth, endured all He endured even to the death on the cross in order that you and I might be forgiven, that you and I might be delivered from sin, that you and I might be made heirs of this glory that is awaiting us. We shall see Him! Then we shall see what it meant to Him and what it cost Him. And if you want to face that, says Peter, in peace, well, give diligence that you may appear before Him without spot and blameless.”[3]

Sisters, we shall see him! As we grow in “the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,” we are adorning ourselves for our meeting with our Bridegroom, “fully pleasing to him” (Col. 1:9, 10).

The false teachers and scoffers claimed that the delay of Christ’s return meant that he was not coming back (v. 4). Peter reiterates the cause for his delay, reminding us to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (15a). As we await his return, we can participate in his harvest by praying for, supporting and sending—or being—missionaries to foreign fields (Col 4:2-6); praying for and sharing the gospel with our families, friends, and neighbors, and supporting our churches’ efforts to reach the lost.

Paul reminds us that we ought always to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6), just as Peter also wrote that in our hearts, we should “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We have a blessed hope: let’s share it with others!

Peter finishes his thought about counting the patience of our Lord as salvation with:

“just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (15b, 16).

In one fell swoop, Peter declares Paul’s writings to be in the same category as the Scriptures of the Old Testament: inspired writings, given by God, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Simon Kistemaker writes, “This was not only his personal opinion, but the evaluation of the Christian community of their day.”[4] Indeed, it wasn’t only the evaluation of the community, but, as “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), it is God’s opinion of Paul’s—and Peter’s—writings! Paul was also aware that his ministry and writings were empowered by the Holy Spirit:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess. 2:13)

“these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10)

“since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.” (2 Cor. 13:3, NASB)

It was important for Peter’s readers to grasp this connection because Peter and Paul wrote and taught the same things concerning the return of Christ, the day of the Lord, and God’s patience toward sinners. Peter’s readers are hearing mixed messages from the world, their own flesh, and the devil—as voiced by the scoffers and false teachers. They need to know that God has spoken through his apostles with a unified message of hope and not despair.

And yet, even Peter admits that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand. The “ignorant and unstable” were taking advantage of this difficulty by twisting the Scriptures. “As torturers make a victim on the rack say the opposite of the truth, so the false teachers place Scripture on the rack and distort its message.”[5]

Believers, therefore, need to handle the Scriptures with great care, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 3:15), especially when we come to the difficult passages. Fortunately, we are given guidance for understanding what we can of the Scriptures by the Author Himself:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-16)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

We must approach Scripture prayerfully, asking the Lord for wisdom as we read, studying diligently to be humble students of the Word—not to bend it to our desired meaning—but to learn what it truly teaches. Learning to interpret Scripture happens as we sit under the faithful teaching of the Word each week in church, being devoted to our pastors’ teaching, as well as participating in Bible studies where the focus is on what the Scriptures principally teach, not floating from topic to topic, but learning through whole portions of the Bible to preserve the context. Finally, if the interpretation we are being taught—or coming up with on our own—does not glorify Christ, then we must reject it, because the Holy Spirit will only ever and always glorify the Son.

Martin Lloyd-Jones adds his own warning to Peter’s when he asks, “Shall I be misunderstood if I say that the most dangerous Book in the world is the Bible, because it is the Word of God, because it is the greatest Book, because it is a Divine book, because if we misread it we can, as Peter says, wrest it to our own destruction. Therefore, I say, let us approach the Scriptures carefully and studiously.”[6] I hope we do understand what the good Doctor means, and that we therefore handle God’s Word with care and devotion.

Peter draws his epistle to an end with his final instructions to his beloved readers.

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” (17)

He warns his readers to take care, to be on guard, that they aren’t carried away by the erroneous teachings and doubts of the false teachers and scoffers. Paul had a similar concern for the church at Ephesus, and he encouraged them to, “no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Even as he expressed this concern, we find it embedded safely within the remedy which God has already given us, to protect us from the foul winds of false doctrine and the waves of deceitful schemes:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:11-16)

This is the purpose for the Church—to equip us, the saints, for the work of ministry so that together we can work in unison with the Holy Spirit to build one another up in the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and in the knowledge of our Savior, the Son of God, even Jesus Christ. And as we are so built up, we strengthen one another and are strengthened by the Spirit to withstand the attacks on our faith and doctrine. As we see the attacks coming we speak the truth to one another in love, because we love one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8). And as we learn to walk in truth and love we grow up in every way into Christ, in Whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Peter is well acquainted with the dangers of losing one’s stability. On the night Jesus was betrayed, as he was predicting that they would all abandon him, Peter boldly declared, ‘“Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same’ (Matt. 26:33-35). We all know how that turned out for him.

Peter knows the pain of falling from a pedestal of pride. For the believer, such a fall will never lead to losing one’s salvation—God won’t allow his children to fall away entirely. Yet, being tossed to and fro by false doctrines can lead to great and painful difficulties in one’s walk with Christ. Peter hopes to spare us as much avoidable pain as possible, and God has authored an entire Bible to teach us the truths which will set us free from the lies of our adversary. We know that trials come to test and strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6, 7), but false doctrines and doubts can leave lingering wounds which may hinder our growth in the faith and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture’s prescription to stabilize our faith is found in our last verse:

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (18a)

In this final exhortation, Peter is mirroring his greeting at the opening of the epistle: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2). As he did then, he again tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He doesn’t tell us to acquire the grace, but to grow in the grace that has been given to us as a gift from “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who, “according to his great mercy… has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). For, “there can be no growth unless there has been a birth, and birth means bringing, or coming to life. So that when the Gospel exhorts us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, it pre-supposes a life, a birth, a beginning, the possession of something which is very definite.”[7]

Where there is life there is growth. Peter’s encouragement is for us to grow in our sanctification. We must keep both grace and knowledge together in view, for one without the other will lead to a lopsided faith. All grace without knowledge puts us in danger of being led about by our feelings—which can be untrustworthy. All knowledge and no grace can lead to intellectual tyranny—which leaves no room for compassion.

The knowledge which we need is more than bare facts about our Lord and the elements of faith. Yes, we need the doctrines of the faith so that we understand what we believe—there is vitally important content to our faith. But we have placed our faith not in doctrines, but in a person. We must grow in our “knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which is meant my communion with Him; my sense of a personal relationship to Him must increase.”[8] Paul wrote to the Philippian church of this knowledge:

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:8-10).

Remembering Peter’s concerns about false teachers, the more we grow in grace and knowledge of Christ, the less the allurements of the world, the flesh, and the lying devil will appeal to us. As we grow in grace and knowledge, the deeper our love for and the more closely we are knitted to our Lord and Savior. Nothing less will satisfy the desires of our hearts and minds. No, we will not be satisfied with anything less than our inheritance, imperishable and undefiled, which God is keeping for us in heaven, even as his power guards us through faith now, while we journey toward that celestial city, longing more and more to see our Bridegroom face to face…

To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (18b)

Blessings to you, dear ones. I can pray for nothing better for you than what I have here written. May Christ occupy more and more the desires of your heart and the activity of your mind until the day you meet him at last, enrobed in his own righteousness, spotless and without blemish, in splendor, presented as a Bride to her Beloved.

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of 2 Peter, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1987), 342.

[2] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 204-205.

[3] Ibid., 205.

[4] Kistemaker, 342.

[5] Ibid., 346

[6] Lloyd-Jones, 215.

[7] Lloyd-Jones, 220.

[8] Ibid., 227.

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