2 PETER 3:14-18 (ESV)
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (15) And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, (16) 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. (17) 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. (18) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
TRUTH IN FOCUS
While the world misinterprets Christ’s tarrying as a sign that He will never return, believers should rest comforted in the knowledge that the Lord tarries in saving patience to redeem those, all of those, God has chosen before the foundation of the world. Christ does not delay His coming like some sluggard! On the contrary, He graciously exercises saving patience for the sake of His beloved elect, returning precisely at the sovereignly appointed day and hour!
Beloved, we do not know when the Lord shall return. But in this we can take comfort: He is coming again! In the meantime, Peter gives the church a clear directive to cultivate in our hearts a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Christ, learning from God’s word so as not to “be carried away with the error of lawless people.” Until the Lord returns, Christians have time to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord!
The Holy Spirit is actively involved in testifying of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel! Men and women are being drawn to Christ each and every day. What looks like tarrying, is in fact an organized spiritual harvest of the Lord’s elect. He patiently grants repentance to each and every person ordained unto eternal life.
A Friend who sticks closer than a brother, the Good Shepherd, our Patient Lord, gathers in all of those given to Him by the Father. In this way, we can truly count the patience of our Lord as salvation, because, as Peter taught us in this very chapter, He is patient and longsuffering toward us, not willing that any of us should perish!
In these verses, Peter encourages the Church to live peacibly, study the Gospel, and thereby grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
V. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
A. “since you are waiting for these…” – The sure promise of a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells as the future home for each and everyone of God’s elect children is a blessing and comfort!
John’s Revelation provides a beautiful description of this wonderful place we will call home:
Revelation 21:1-3: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
B. “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” – In light of the glory that awaits us, Christians have a sweet privilege to seek to live pleasingly to God, to shun the wrong and do the right, to love the brothers, care for the needy, comfort the oppressed, visit the widow, and live peaceably among their fellow man.
But the text here calls God’s people to be found “without spot or blemish.” Now, those who say this text prescribes a particular life-style as a way in which man can become “without spot or blemish,” prove too much. For if a man can be found by Christ to be without spot or blemish just by the way he lives his life, then of what value is Christ’s death?
If a life without spot or blemish is possible through life-style choices, Christ’s death becomes nothing more than a catalyst, a gracious jump start for the “real work” of salvation by human effort.
But time and time again, the Scriptures declare the truth to us concerning Christ! He alone will be glorified in the salvation of sinners!
Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians concerning the preeminence of Christ as the sole source of salvation:
1 Cor 1:27-31 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (28) God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, (29) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (30) And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (31) so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The self-righteous look to their works, their human efforts, to justify themselves before God. In their minds, the works they’ve accomplished somehow prove them to be worthy of God’s commendation. Pointing to their civic involvement, charitable giving, worthy causes, fair treatment of others, and obeying the laws of the land, this crowd truly believes their works are acceptable to God. To add to the self-deception, the world lauds their performance, feeding the false sense of security performing good deeds often engenders among the damned.
Contrast the typical self-righteous person with the teaching of Peter and Paul concerning the true Gospel. Peter teaches us that God “hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3a).
All things pertain unto life are given to us by Christ! Salvation is not by works of the law. Rather, we are saved “through the knowledge of him that hath called us.” Truly, the Gospel (the finished work of Christ) is the power of God unto salvation!
In 1 Peter 3:18, Peter writes concerning the one-time offering of Christ:
“For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”
Christ suffered for sins to bring His people to God. There is no place for human effort in Salvation because Christ died, the just for the unjust, that he (he alone) might bring us (His people) to God! Praise the Lord!
The Apostle Paul, with whom Peter completely agrees mind you, writes this concerning salvation based on the righteousness of Christ alone:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
What about law-keeping as proof of or maintenance of righteousness as some would teach? Again Paul demolishes this notion in Romans 7:4, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
How can a believer be “dead to the law” and yet utilize the law to attain or maintain righteousness? The impossibility is quite evident given the true nature of Gospel Salvation, a work in, by, and through the righteousness of Christ imputed to elect sinners. Our works do not and can not save!
Both Paul and Peter teach salvation by Christ alone, apart from the works of the law. How then does a believer diligently seek to be found by Christ without spot or blemish?”
We are found to be without spot or blemish because we, by God’s gift of faith, trust in Christ alone. With our trust firmly planted in the truth of Christ’s finished work, the only saving work, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1)!
It is IN LIGHT OF CHRIST’S WORK that we seek to live a life pleasing to our Lord. Peter doesn’t call Christ’s redeemed to gain ones maintain anything by our personal behavior. Rather, we love God and the brothers, seeking to do right by them BECAUSE of the work Christ has performed on our behalf! The acceptable works wrought in our lives by the abiding power and presence of the Holy Spirit are works done in response to the finished work of God in Christ performed on our behalf.
And while our acceptable works fluctuate and vary because of the weakness of the flesh, Christ work guarantees each of His blessed children that salvation is a finished work forever settled in heaven! Praise God!
Philippians 3:8-14- Indeed, 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 (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (10) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (11) that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Notice how Paul lives in light of the finished work of Christ. He freely admits his own frailty. Yet, he seeks to live a life that pleases the Lord! He “presses on” (faith working in love) to fight against the flesh because Christ has already completed the work!):
(12) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
How are we to be found by Christ without spot or blemish? We must be found to be in Christ! If you believe the true and saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be found without spot or blemish because He is lamb given without spot or blemish! Praise the Lord!
V. 15,16 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, (16) 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.
A. “Count the patience of our Lord as salvation” – This text should be understood in at least two distinct ways. First of all, the immediate context compels us to view Peter’s statement as a further explanation of why Christ seems to tarry His coming. According to Peter, Christ seems to tarry His coming for the sake of those yet to be saved. In this “the patience of the Lord” refers to the fact that He is waiting patiently for His own preordained harvest of souls. This is why Peter wrote earlier of Christ, that He is “patient not willing that any should perish…”
Secondly, in a broader sense, the statement refers to the rich grace by which Christ saves His people from their sin apart from any human work. This explains why Peter was swift to reference the Apostle Paul and the wealth of his grace-based writings concerning the true Gospel of God’s Free and Sovereign Grace.
Peter places his own stamp of approval on the writings of Paul concerning the Gospel. If there ever was any incongruity between the writings of Peter and Paul (and there most certainly is not), this attestation offered by Peter in full support of Paul’s writings swiftly puts it to bed.
B. “There are some things in them that are hard to understand..” – While Peter considered Paul’s epistles to be equal with “the other scriptures,” he also admitted that some of Paul’s writings were hard to understand. But who has issue understanding these truths? It is the unlearned and unstable to twist Paul’s word to their own just destruction.
Those “taught of God” do not take issue with Paul’s Gospel witness!
John 6:44-46– No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (45) It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— (46) not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Those who are still holding to self-righteous religion (everyone not saved by the Free and Sovereign Grace of God) will contend against Paul’s Gospel, twisting his words to their own destruction. This is true of anyone who distorts the Gospel by adding human works!
(17) 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.
A. “take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people…” – What is the “error of lawless people?” These are they which “do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Peter used this similar language to describe the Gospel earlier in his first epistle.
God’s people should rebuke and separate from those who espouse a false gospel. Come out from among them and be a separate people (separated unto the Gospel of Grace).
B. “lose your own stability.” – Nothing good or right comes from Christians, true Christians, compromising the Gospel for the sake of phony unity. When the Gospel is compromised, whatever is preached is no longer Gospel. The firm foundation that is the Christian Gospel is surrendered for the mire of falsehood. Peter encourages believers to shun the false professors and unbelieving scoffers, maintaining a strong uncompromising defense of the true and saving Gospel.
Paul had similar words of warning for Christians in the second Corinthian letter:
2 Corinthians 6:15-18– What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Truly, there is no stability to be found if the Gospel of our salvation is compromised in any way.
V. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
A. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord…” – This should never be interpreted as a growth in holiness! So many teachers and preachers, from both Calvinistic and Arminian camps teach this nonsense. An individual is either holy or unholy. By definition, anyone who is spotted or blemished in any way spiritual, well, is unholy!
Holiness is a legal reality in God’s economy. We are declared righteous by imputation only! We do not become perfectly righteous in our daily conduct. Rather, we fight against the flesh and long for the day when the Lord will destroy sin with the brightness of His coming!
The notion that Christians somehow become practically holy or sinless in this life comes from the mistaken notion that Christ died merely in order to send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the elect to work on them and make them better and better in conduct each and every day. This equating of the Gospel with the Holy Spirit’s work on a man’s heart instead of the cross work of Christ for His people is nothing short of heresy!
The Gospel is not what the Spirit does to a man’s heart or individual life. The Gospel is what Christ did on behalf of God’s elect by imputing their sin to Him and imputing His righteousness to them through Christ’s obedience unto death. The Gospel is, in every way, shape, and form, the finished, completed, work of Christ!
Romans 3:20-28– For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (21) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— (22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (26) It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (27) Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. (28) For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Likewise, sanctification is NOT, I repeat, NOT a second work or follow-up work of God’s grace!
We do not and can not become more holy than we are the very moment justifies us freely by His blood, sanctifying us by belief of the truth!
2 Thessalonians 2:13- But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
Q: How, then, are we to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? We can learn of the Lord each and every day of our lives. His Word is an inexhaustible wellspring for the souls of His elect!
Psalm 119:102-105– I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. (103) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (104)Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. (105) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
When we gather together to hear the Gospel of Christ preached and taught, we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. We learn that the power of God’s grace is not taxed by the imperfections of His people. It will never buckle under the weight of our fallen humanity! Christ will hold me fast! Christ will uphold all of His people, and will not lose any, but raise them up on the last day!
As we study His word, He is pleased to reveal Himself to us in deeper and more profound ways. This is why we are admonished to “study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the word of Truth!”
So, we grow in our understanding of our position in Christ. However, it is a terrible heresy to teach that somehow people can better the work of Christ in becoming more holy by the works of their hands or the mere desire of the heart. Christ saves to the uttermost. There is no room for improvement. Only room to understand more deeply what Christ has accomplished through His Gospel!
Beloved, let us all grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Count the patience of the Lord as salvation, beloved! He will patiently wait until all of His elect children are granted repentance, all in His appointed time.
Likewise, the Lord is patient with us in Christ! How He loves His church! Words cannot express the perfect love God has for those in Christ. It is truly a love which passes knowledge.
In light of the wondrous keeping power and kindly patience of our Lord, let us endeavor to work acceptable works as our faith is motivated by love. Let us love one another with a grace filled hearts. Let us stand boldly for the true and saving Gospel of the Sovereign Grace of God in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, let us grow each and every day in the grace and knowledge of the Lord! – Amen.
Jason K. Boothe is Pastor at Horizons Baptist Church in Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of Horizons Baptist Church, please visit www.HorizonsBaptist.org