2 Peter #3
2 Peter 1:1-2
January 22, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s take our Bibles and open to 2 Peter 1:1. I understand a lot of you received a mysterious email from me. I feel like Paul in 2 Thessalonians, “Concerning this forged letter, I would not have you to be shaken or unsettled.”
Generally speaking, if you get an email from me asking for money or asking you to buy something—especially something on eBay—it probably didn’t come from me. I mean, I would like to sell some more books, but not that badly.
Generally, the emails that are going to come from me from the church will end in SLBC.org. If it doesn’t say that, it shows you something fishy is going on. I think we’ve been hacked—or whatever the proper technical phrase is. “Spoofed,” someone said. I don’t know the difference between the two.
A lot of you are very vigilant, though. I started getting phone calls at 7 a.m. I’m like, “Is my house on fire?” “No.” “Well then, don’t wake me up at 7 a.m. This email stuff we can handle at 9 a.m.—or 11 a.m. for that matter.”
All right, let’s open our Bibles to 2 Peter 1:1. The last two weeks we started the background issues of the book and actually finished that last week. Who is the author? Peter. And we know a lot about him just by tracing his life through the Gospels and Acts.
The date of the book would be? AD 64. Who is he writing to? Jews in modern-day Turkey who are clearly saved.
Where is he writing from? Babylon. So, he’s a Jew, writing from a Jewish area (Babylon), to Jews in another Jewish area (though scattered) in north-central Turkey.
Of course, the occasion for writing is he’s very concerned about false doctrine going into the Asia minor area. In this case, Gnosticism was coming into that area. We call it an incipient Gnosticism, because we don’t really have full-blown Gnosticism until the second century AD. But here we have an early form of it.
So, his purpose is to protect his readers from false teaching. And I can’t think of a better subject. Because just like in Peter’s day, we have tremendous false teaching like I’ve never seen before in my lifetime as a Christian coming into the church, particularly here in North America—if not worldwide.
The structure has three parts to it. We’ll go over that in just a minute. And the message of the book is protection from false teachers.
The book features a lot of unique characteristics like the subject of knowledge, which we’ll refer to in just a minute.
So here is our three-point outline. Chapter 1 is a call to maturity. Chapter 2 is a description of these false teachers who are coming—their generic characteristics. And Chapter 3 is a discussion of their doctrine that they’re going to bring in, something called uniformitarianism. Interestingly enough, I would say that this is the dominant false worldview of the 20th and the 21st century. We wouldn’t have Charles Darwin—and Darwinism and evolution—were it not for uniformitarianism. But a lot more on that later.
We move into chapter 1, which basically is a call to maturity. We can outline chapter 1 as follows. You have an introduction, a call to growth, a purpose statement, and then he’ll make a statement about the coming kingdom. All these things will start making sense as we proceed, I hope and pray.
First of all, we have an introduction, verses 1 and 2. This introduction has the writer, the recipients, and the greeting.
Notice, if you will, the writer. Notice, if you will, 1 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” So, the writer is Simon Peter. And we’ve gone through the arguments that liberals use to say, “Peter really didn’t write this. It was written by a forger in the second century A.D., long after the true Apostle Peter died.”
2 Peter is probably one of the most attacked books by higher critics. Old Testament equivalents would be Daniel and Isaiah; those books are relentlessly attacked by the critics. And the reason those Old Testament books are attacked is because they predict the future with accuracy.
Liberals, coming from an anti-supernaturalist worldview, don’t believe Cyrus’ name, for example, at the end of chapter 44 of Isaiah into chapter 45. “There’s no way the true Isaiah could’ve called his name out 200 years in advance.” So they just chop up the book of Isaiah and say, “Someone else wrote that—Deutero-Isaiah, Trito-Isaiah,” etc.
They do the same kind of game with the book of Daniel. Interestingly enough, they do this with 2 Peter. I do notice a pattern that any book of the Bible that has anything to do with predictive prophecy—like this one does—comes under attack.
I walked you through some of the arguments that they use, because your kids and your grandkids will most likely get hit by these things—particularly if they major in religion, or if they watch the History Channel, Mysteries of the Bible, or A&E. They’ll give you the liberal arguments without giving you the countervailing conservative response. I tried to walk you through those arguments in our first session together.
But all things being equal, we believe that the actual Peter, who walked with the Lord 30 years earlier, is the author of this book. You’ll also notice there in verse 1 that Simon Peter describes himself as a bondservant, and the Greek word there is DOULOS. It’s speaking of a common slave.
Thirty years before that in the Upper Room, Jesus gave Peter this object lesson in John 13:4-9. And you know the verse. This is in the Upper Room. “Jesus…got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
He got the message, I guess. I mean, it would be somewhat overwhelming to have God incarnate, God in human flesh, the One Who spoke and the universe leapt into existence, get down on His hands and knees and wash your feet, wouldn’t it? And that’s what was being role modeled in the Upper Room: being a slave, being a servant, giving yourself away on behalf of somebody else. Of course, that didn’t fit Peter’s definition of a Messiah Who is supposed to rule and reign—not be a common servant.
So, Peter sort of resisted it initially. But now three decades have passed, and he’s learned his lesson. He learned what Jesus said, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” Consequently, the Apostle Peter here identifies himself as a DOULOS, or a slave. No doubt reflecting upon that great lesson that he learned from the Lord in the Upper Room three decades earlier.
Many of the disciples (John, Paul, etc.), when they write letters, identify themselves this way, as a bondservant. To be frank with you, when you go into ministry websites and look at people’s ministry business cards, I don’t know anybody—even yours truly—who identifies himself this way. You know, we’re so busy touting our credentials—radio personality, author, mega-church pastor, business guru, consultant. And I’m wondering if we in 21st-century evangelical Christianity have just completely lost sight of things? Because Peter had a lot of credentials.
Peter not only walked with the Lord, but he actually saw the Transfiguration, which he’s going to allude to in this book. And he never touts his credentials. He never articulates things that would raise him above other people. He just identifies himself as a slave.
He goes on here and not only identifies himself as a slave; but if he has any credentials at all, it’s as an apostle. And that’s what gives him an authority to write. Because the Lord said in the Upper Room to the 11 (Judas having left the room), “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).
Because Peter was being guided by the Holy Spirit through inspiration, he ended up writing two books of our New Testament, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. And that probably becomes the reason why the Apostle Peter identifies himself here as an apostle.
So it’s his apostleship that gave him the authority to write. But other than that credential, I think that may be the only reason he’s mentioning his apostleship. Other than that, he looks at himself as just a common slave or a common servant.
The definition of “apostle” has become very important in our day, because we now have the New Apostolic Reformation. You’ve heard of this, right? The NAR. It is centered there in Bethel Church in Redding, California. Their whole movement is centered around the fact that today we have modern-day apostles.
If you have modern-day apostles, then the canon of Scripture can’t be closed. Because it’s the Lord Who gave the apostles the authority to pen His Word. So the moment you open the door to modern-day apostles, you are also opening the door to what we would call an open canon of Scripture.
So that’s why it’s important that we nail down exactly what an apostle is. Hold your place here in 2 Peter for a minute. Go to Acts 1:21-22. You’ll remember that Judas committed suicide, and they were seeking a replacement for Judas. This was just before this Spirit of God fell in Acts 2.
In the process of seeking this replacement they ultimately settled on Matthias, you’ll recall. But in the process of seeking this replacement, they set out the definition of an apostle. And it says this, “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us [that would be the ascension]—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
So, if someone wants to claim the title of apostle, there’s the criteria right there. You had to have been an eyewitness to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ—actually going to the very beginning of that ministry, which would be the ministry of John the Baptist. And you have to have followed that ministry as an apostle right up through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ultimately the ascension. So, if that’s the definition of an apostle, obviously you don’t have apostles today.
Ephesians 2:20 says that the Lord laid the foundation of the church with the apostles. Think about this for a minute. How many times do you lay a foundation in a construction project? One time.
Since that foundation has already been laid, there are no new apostles today in the way I’m describing it. And because there’s no new apostles today, you are not having new books of the Bible being written. Because if someone claims the mantle of an apostle, then that means that the individual revelations that they are receiving are on equal par with Scripture. And you might as well tuck them into the back of your Bible right next to Revelation 22, the end of the Bible. You can call that Revelation 23.
So, the reality of the situation is that you don’t have apostles today the way we are articulating it. In fact, when I was working at the Bible college, I had a lot of charismatic Pentecostal students. They would introduce themselves as, “I’m apostle this,” and “I’m apostle so-and-so.” What do you do when you’re in that situation and you’re dealing with people that have a theology that is completely different than your own? Do you alienate them out of the gate?
Or do you try to kill them with a little bit of a sense of humor? What I tried to do is say, “Man! You look good for your age! Because you ought to be about 2000 years old if you’re an apostle. What are your exercise tips, nutrition tips, diet tips, etc.?”
Peter here calls himself not just a servant, but an apostle of Jesus Christ. Then we move to the recipients of the letter. Look at the second half there of 1:1, “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Now, you’ll notice it says they “have received a faith.” That too is the source of a lot of controversy.
Because today we have—and we’ve had for quite some time—a form of Calvinism, or a form of reformed theology, which basically says in our depravity we lack the ability to believe. Even when you’re convicted by the Holy Spirit, you can’t believe. You’re dead like a rock. The Holy Spirit can convict you, the Word of God can be taught to you, the gospel can be preached to you, and even though the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, you still cannot believe—unless you are given the gift of faith.
So, God has to regenerate you first so that you can believe. So, who determines who is given the gift of faith and who isn’t? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to be one of the elect, then you’re given the gift of faith.
But what you discover in their theology is that not everybody is of the elect. The elect consists of only a fragment of the human race. So, if you’re in that number you’re given the gift of faith. Consequently, you’re regenerated first, then you believe.
And they camp on verses like this which say you “have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” In fact, when I came to Sugar Land Bible Church, that’s the way our doctrinal statement read. Except when you compared it to what it originally said.
This church was founded in the early 1980s, and it didn’t have a doctrinal statement like that. But over time some elders got on the elder board who came from a more aggressive Calvinistic mindset, and they had the doctrinal statement changed in certain areas to teach this idea of the “gift of faith.”
One of the things I proposed to our elder board when I came here is that we ought to change our doctrinal statement back to what it originally said, because this idea of the “gift of faith” is just not a biblical idea. Fortunately, I had unanimous elder support, and we switched it back to what it originally said. In the process, we got rid of all that “faith is a gift” hyper-Calvinism language.
Does this verse teach that faith is a gift? One of the things that’s interesting is in the Greek this is what you called anarthrous, meaning it doesn’t have a definite article in front of the word “faith.” Therefore, it very well could be talking about objective faith. In other words, content—Scriptural content—rather than subjective personal faith.
So, people who want to use this verse to teach “faith is a gift” and all of these kinds of things have to account for this fact, “Why don’t we have a definite article in front of faith?” And when you track through Scripture, faith without the definite article doesn’t really refer to personal faith; it refers to simply receiving objective truth.
You’ll notice this participle here, “having received.” It’s a participle in Greek, and it’s interesting that that participle does not have a passive voice. See, if it’s passive, you’re the receiver of the action. And that’s the way it would normally read if faith is a gift. I mean, if faith is something that we don’t even have the ability to do on our own because of our depravity—and therefore I have to receive it as some kind of gift from God—the voice here would not be active (the way it is), but it would be passive.
But it’s not a passive voice; it’s an active voice. So, exegetically, this verse doesn’t fit with the Calvinistic doctrine that faith is a gift. We, at Sugar Land Bible Church, do not teach faith is a gift. We teach total depravity. But what the Calvinists have done is they’ve taken a good thing, a biblical thing (total depravity), and they’ve put too much emphasis on it. To them, total depravity means you’re dead like a rock—without any ability to respond to God.
Even when the Holy Spirit convicts you, and even when the gospel is preached to you, you can’t respond. God has to make some kind of move ahead of time and give you the gift of faith first. So, they’ve taken depravity and they’ve overemphasized it.
We believe in total depravity. But total depravity really does not refer to the intensity of our depravity, but it refers to the extent of our depravity. In other words, unbelievers can still do good things in the eyes of man. They can’t do anything to merit justification, but they can still give money to the Cancer Research Society. Unbelievers know how to apply the brakes at the crosswalk when they see a child walking in the crosswalk.
So, man is not depraved to the point of total—meaning intensity. What it means is that he’s depraved in the extent of his depravity. In other words, sin has touched every area of my being. That’s what “total” means. Calvinists largely, in my opinion, take depravity and overemphasize it. They make it sound like you can’t even believe on your own, and that’s where this whole “gift of faith” idea comes from.
The proper way that salvation takes place is the Spirit of God (John 16:7-11) convicts the world. And as a person comes under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, they through their own volition (which God will not override because we are made in His image) make a choice to believe or not to believe.
The fact that we’re made in His image means I have to have a choice. I mean, aren’t we analogized to husband/wife, bride/groom (Ephesians 5), the Lord’s relationship to the church? Let me just ask a married man, “Did you choose your wife, or did your wife choose you?” I hope the answer that is “both,” or you might need some marriage counseling.
God never overrides free will. He convicts a person so that they are aware of their need to believe. But He doesn’t go on the inside of them and override their free will and give them the gift of faith, whether they want it or not. That’s the Calvinistic teaching from an overemphasis on total depravity.
So we believe the Spirit convicts people—no doubt about that. But when we come under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, we, through volition, have to make a choice to believe or not to believe. And that is not taught in modern day Calvinism, because they think faith is a gift. And they wrongly use verses like this to support their position.
You’ll notice that these recipients “have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” You know, that could be a reference to the fact that they’ve received content—not subjective faith.
Then, you’ll notice also that he says, “have received a faith ‘of the same kind as ours’.” Peter here is putting himself at the same level as everybody else.
Peter was an apostle. We learned that earlier in the verse. But what he is saying here is, “You have the same kind of faith I have. There’s nothing special about me. The faith that I have—the relationship I have with God—you have it too. It’s available to you.”
And that’s very important to understand, because the God of the Bible is not a respecter of persons. God doesn’t give certain people a special status—and not other people. It’s available to all.
And there are many, many verses in the Bible that tell us this—that God is not a respecter of persons. You might want to jot these down: Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25. And it communicates what Peter is speaking of here: the same kind of faith as ours. God is not a respecter of persons.
Then, also in verse one, you’ll notice the statement that he makes here: “by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In other words, because Jesus did what He did on our behalf, salvation is open to us. And if we’ve trusted in His finished work, we have a relationship with Him. But that relationship wouldn’t even be a possibility had Jesus not done what He did.
So, I am not saved—you are not saved (or justified before God)—on the basis of our own works. We are justified before God on the basis of His work and what He did for us 2000 years ago. And the only thing He’s asked us to do is to receive it as a gift.
That’s why there’s an emphasis here in God, Savior, His righteousness. Because it’s not based on human merit, God doesn’t show partiality to people as to who receives these blessings and who doesn’t. It’s available to anybody who wants it.
The whole world right now, as I speak, is savable. People aren’t saved until they trust in the Savior, but every single human being is savable. And it’s disseminated with impartiality, because it’s not based on us! If it was based on me, maybe I’ve worked a little harder for it than someone else. Maybe, you know, I’m a little bit more deserving. But the Bible makes it very clear that these things are impartial—God is not a respecter of persons—because it’s not based on our work to begin with.
Then, you go down to verse 2 and you see the greeting. It’s a very common greeting that you have in Peter’s writings—and other apostles. Peter says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” So there’s some familiar language there: grace and peace.
Notice the order here. Grace first, peace second, because it’s grace that gives you the peace. What kind of “peace” are we talking about here? Well, we’re probably talking about our peace with God. Formerly, we were in a state of warfare with God (Romans 5:10), but now that warfare has been called off and we are at peace with God.
Now that I am at peace with God through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit, I have the potential of experiencing what Jesus spoke of in the Upper Room: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”
So, as we walk with the Lord and the Holy Spirit is inside of us, we have an ability to have experiential peace that accompanies our positional peace. Remember the story of the disciples panicking because a storm arose on the sea of Galilee when they were all out fishing. You know, it’s sort of humorous. They’re all panicking, and what’s Jesus doing many times in those stories? He’s asleep. Some versions say that He was asleep on a cushion or had His head on a cushion, something along those lines.
“Lord, don’t you care? We’re drowning!” Then Jesus gets up and gives two rebukes. He probably should’ve given three. Number one, “You shouldn’t have woken Me up.” But the second rebuke—He rebukes the wind and the waves. He rebukes the external storm so that everything becomes placid. Then He rebukes the storm happening in the disciples—the panic city that they were in because of their lack of faith. He deals with storm A (external); then He deals with storm B (internal).
Paul the apostle tells us in Galatians 2:20 that Jesus is where now? He is at the right hand of the Father, but He is also where? Inside of us! So, the same Jesus Who was asleep in the midst of the storm lives in you, as your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what’s going on in everybody’s lives, but you have an ability to experience calmness in the midst of the storm that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
We have experiential peace. We have positional peace available to us. But you’ll notice that these things don’t come to us unless we have what first? Grace. The Greek word for grace here is CHARIS, and it basically means “unmerited favor.”
That’s why we have the standing before God that we have: unmerited favor. Favor we didn’t deserve. Why is that? Because He did everything for us in our place. And if you have the unmerited favor of God, now you have access to peace.
First of all, you are no longer at war with God (positional peace). Secondly, through any storm of life, you have the ability to tap into resources you didn’t have before; you have the ability to have experiential peace. CHARIS and EIRENE: grace and peace.
Then he mentions something else here in this greeting. He mentions “knowledge.” He says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” So, knowledge—or truth—is an essential ingredient for resisting the allurement of false teachers.
We’ve used this example before. It’s like how they train people in the banking industry to recognize “funny money,” or phony currency. They make them familiar with the real money: it’s texture; it’s color; what it feels like when it goes across your hand; maybe even what it smells like. Then, all of a sudden, a counterfeit runs across your hand, and you can immediately detect it as counterfeit.
Yet you wouldn’t have the ability to detect it is counterfeit unless you were familiar with the real thing. Right? It’s like the email that went out this morning. I mean, you guys knew that wasn’t from me, right? Or else I would not have gotten calls at seven in the morning. That’s all right; I’m getting over it.
But it just looked odd. It looked strange. It really didn’t look like something I would send out. Because you guys know me. That basically is what knowledge is to you in the spiritual realm. The more familiar you are with the real, the more you can recognize funny money and phony currency etc.
Something else to understand about knowledge is knowledge is a lot more than filling one’s head with data. See, that’s the Bible church understanding of knowledge. That’s the Bible college understanding of knowledge, “I fill my head with some facts, I pass the test, and I move on to the next course.” And that really is not what biblical knowledge is. It includes that: facts, data, and information are important.
But knowledge in the Bible doesn’t just stop with facts; its relational. It’s like when Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew his wife.” That’s obviously talking about physical intimacy, because she was impregnated as a result of that. Knowledge, intimacy—that’s how the Bible uses this expression “knowledge.”
Peter, here, wants his audience to have knowledge. Once they have knowledge, they’re going to be able to resist the allurement of the false teachers. And they’re going to be able to reach maturity, which is what he wants them to do here in chapter 1.
Knowledge is the truth. And it’s not just knowing facts about the truth; it’s having a relationship with the God Who loves you and redeemed you and created you.
Second Peter, as I mentioned last week, is what you call a polemic. What the Apostle Peter does is he takes the Gnostics terms… Remember, the incipient Gnostics whom he’s writing against taught the secret knowledge.
You had to go through their system to get the secret knowledge. So, some people had it and some people didn’t. And the people who had it always looked down with pride on the people who didn’t have it.
So, that’s the false understanding of knowledge. Peter takes their term “knowledge” and refills it with a proper meaning. And he’s going to do that all the way through the letter.
The knowledge Peter is talking about is knowledge that’s available to every single believer in the Scripture. And it’s also the ability to have a relationship with Jesus—to every single person.
In the Upper Room, remember, they were all panicked that Jesus was leaving. And He says to them, “It is to your advantage that I’m leaving. Because when I leave, the Paraclete (or the Helper) will come.”
When Jesus walked this earth 2000 years ago, He was intimate with 12 people. Actually, to be frank about it, He was probably just intimate with three at the highest level, Peter James and John. If you weren’t in that very inner circle, you just weren’t as intimate with the Lord as others.
That’s why He says, “It’s to your advantage that I’m leaving, because when I leave the Holy Spirit (or the Paraclete) will come, and He will be in you (not upon you—in you).” For how long? Forever (John 14:16-17). And that’s why He says, “I will not leave you as orphans.”
So in the age of time that we’re living in, every single Christian has the ability to have an intimate walk with the Lord. You don’t have to be Peter, James, or John. You don’t have to be one of the 12. It’s available to every child of God.
And that’s the kind of knowledge Peter is promoting here. It’s universal knowledge, not knowledge available to a select group as was falsely taught by the Gnostics.
So that takes care of the introduction. Now we go to 2 Peter 1:3-11, where we have the call to growth. So why would Peter in a book about false teaching in chapter 1 not even deal with the subject, but instead call people to maturity?
If you go to chapter 2 for minute and you look at verse 14, you’ll see the answer to that question. Look one chapter to the right, 2 Peter 2:14. It says this of false teachers, “…having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, [watch this:] enticing unstable souls.”
So, whom do the false teachers prey on? They prey on Christians who are immature. They prey on Christians who are not stable.
Now, you go to these mass crusade things, whether it’s the late Billy Graham or Luis Palau—I guess the modern-day Billy Graham would be Greg Laurie—these huge crusade type evangelistic outreaches where you’ve got a mass amount of people coming to Christ. When you go into the parking lot after the event and you go to your car—whether it’s a stadium or whatever—what you will always see in the parking lot is the kingdom of the cults passing out their literature.
Whether it’s the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, whoever, you have to ask yourself at some point, “Why is it that the kingdom of the cults is targeting these mass evangelistic outreaches where potentially you’ve got a whole bunch of saved people all at once? The answer to that is you’ve got regenerated people now, but they’ve had how much time to grow as a Christian? Zero! So, they don’t know any better.
In fact, anytime someone quotes a Bible verse, they think it’s the greatest thing ever! And the kingdom of the cults, when you interact with them, quote Bible verses. As you grow in Christ, you start to see, “Wait a minute! They’re taking verses out of context.”
But your brand-new Christian has no insight into that. So, they become a sitting duck for the kingdom of the cults, because false teachers prey on the unstable. The more you grow as a Christian, the more you start to see, “Well, that teaching is not right, or that teaching is not right.” But if you’ve had no opportunity to grow, the false teachers prey on the unstable.
So, the first order of business for new Christians is that you have to start to grow. If you don’t start to grow, you’re just going to think that anybody that has the three G’s (the gift of gab, good looks, and a guitar) is of the Lord as long as they’re quoting a Bible verse! That’s why Peter is encouraging his audience to mature. He’s encouraging his audience to grow up.
In fact, the cults will come to your door and they will use—particularly the Mormons—Ezekiel 37 to sweep people into Mormonism. Because Ezekiel 37 talks about two sticks joining together, and one of those sticks is the stick of what? Joseph. And they’ll say, “See, it’s Joseph Smith!”
Mormonism, of course, teaches that there was a totally new revelation of Jesus Christ in North America a good 1600, 1700, 1800 years after the real Jesus rose from the grave and went back to the Father’s right hand. And they’ll look at you with your Bible and they’ll say, “You only have part of the Revelation. You don’t have the full revelation, because you don’t have the stick of Joseph (meaning Joseph Smith).”
Now, your average Christian, particularly here in the Bible belt, is not sitting in a church that’s teaching him the context of Ezekiel 37. It’s not teaching him about how that is speaking of the reunification of the tribes in the thousand year earthly reign of Christ. And if you don’t have the right framework because you’re not under the proper leadership, teaching you the truth about God’s Word, then you’re going to be confused as to who Joseph is and you’re going to think, “Well, maybe they’re right. Maybe the stick there is Joseph Smith.” My point is, the more we remain in immaturity, the more vulnerable we are to what we would call the kingdom of the cults.
That, quite frankly, is one of the great purposes of the local church. What is the purpose of the local church? Why do we come to church? Ephesians 4:11-16 says that God has put certain spiritual gifts into His church, one of which is the gift the pastor-teacher. And the proper use of that gift is to bring the saints to maturity, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”
So, the purpose of church—the purpose of what we’re doing here—or any other time we gather—is primarily designed to bring saved people to a greater level of maturity. When saved people climb to a greater level of maturity, then they’re less vulnerable to false teaching.
It’s a lot like my daughter when she was very little and was crawling on the ground. Everything she saw on the ground she would put in her mouth. She had no discernment. But as you grow, as you mature, as you come of age, you stop doing such things. So, I’m just giving you some explanations as to why Peter is encouraging or exhorting his audience to maturity.
In the medical profession you have what are called obstetricians, those who help with the birthing process. And then you have what are called pediatricians, those who help the newborn child to mature, to grow, to develop properly, to have the right kind of nutrition, and all of those kinds of things. And anybody who knows anything about the medical profession will tell you that those are two totally different disciplines.
Those are two different specialties altogether. In the same way, the body of Christ has obstetricians, those who help with the birthing process (spiritual birth), and that’s the gift of evangelism. Then there are pediatricians who are not primarily working with the unsaved (the way an evangelist is) but with the saved; they are trying to help the saved to grow right, and that’s the gift of pastor-teacher.
Just like in the medical world, you typically don’t have an obstetrician who is also a pediatrician or pediatrician who is also an obstetrician. Generally speaking, when you look at different gift mixes in local churches, you don’t have a pastor who is also an evangelist. Now, sometimes there are pastors who are evangelists—both—because God has gifted them that way. But, generally speaking, those are two completely different gifts, and they have two completely different purposes.
So the purpose of the local church is not to get all the unsaved people in the door we can. It’s to equip the saints, primarily through the teaching of the Word of God, so that they become mature. They start to develop properly. And as you start to develop properly, guess who becomes the evangelist? You become the evangelist! Because you’re being equipped in your local church for that task. Peter here, functioning as the leader of a series of saved people, is encouraging them to grow.
So, what does the call to growth look like? It has three things to it. Number one, the provisions for growth (verses 3 and 4). In other words, what resources has God given us to reach maturity? And once we reach maturity, we will no longer be susceptible to false teachers. God, in verses 3 and 4, has given us provisions.
Then, number two. Once you start to grow, what does it look like (verses 5-7)? In other words, if someone is going to claim that they are a maturing Christian, what characteristics should we see in their life (verses 5-7) ?
Then, number three, why grow? What are the benefits of growth? Because, let’s be honest, we talk about growing what? Growing pains. I mean, it’s not easy to mature. It’s not easy to grow up. I mean, I was happy living at my parents’ house rent free and everything. Had they not kicked me out, I would probably still be there to this day.
Matter of fact, I was watching one of these reality TV shows. They had a guy in his 50s or 60s who was still living in the exact same room he had at his parents’ house in high school. His room was exactly like he had it in high school—with everything on the wall. I think it was a Dr. Phil show.
It’s like, “What’s wrong with this guy?” I mean, he’s an able-bodied man. He’s now in his 50s or 60s. There you’re dealing with someone who—for whatever reason—just shut down and decided he didn’t want to grow up! Why would someone do that? Because there’s always pain involved with growing up.
So, when Peter is exhorting us to mature, it’s not always the easiest thing to do so. Therefore, we need to know the benefits of growing up! Because when you grow up, you get certain privileges, right? In the same way, Peter is going to describe (verses 8-11) five blessings that come your way because we grow up.
But let’s look, very fast, at the provisions God has given us for growth. You’ll notice that what God orders, He pays for. God is not like the guy who sits around at the restaurant nervous because he forgot his wallet at home. He’s worried that he is going to have to wash dishes, because he’s ordered this sumptuous meal and he has no ability to pay for it. That’s not God. If God orders it, He pays for it!
If God authorizes something like our growth, He gives us the tools for achieving it. And that’s what you discover there in verses 3 and 4.
Notice verses 3 and 4. “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us [what’s the next word there?] everything.” That’s a very important word; that’s why I’ve got it underlined.
“…everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
You see the end there? “Escape the corruption that is in the world by lust” is escaping the licentious teaching of the false teachers. Because the Gnostics taught a dualism: the spiritual world is good; the physical world is bad. Which is a false teaching. And if you buy into that, you could just say, “Well it’s really not me making a decision to gossip; it’s this terrible tongue that I have.”
So, you’re blaming sin on this doctrine that the false teachers had that the physical world is evil. People do this all the time, “Gosh, I lose my temper a lot. I do that because I’m German” or “I’m Irish.” No. You’re carnal; that’s why you’re losing your temper all the time. Don’t blame it on something else.
That’s what he means there by “escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” And to achieve this growth, God has given us everything we need. And the word “everything” means what? It means everything.
Now, connecting everything to His promises is a doctrine that we call the Sufficiency of the Scripture. Which is a doctrine that’s drastically in decline today. Because many places believe in the inspiration of the Scripture and the inerrancy of the Scripture, but they don’t believe the Scripture is enough.
So, they look at the Bible like it’s a piece of Swiss cheese with holes in it. “I’ve got to plug up the hole with something else. So, if I want to learn how to govern a church correctly as a church leader, the pastoral epistles aren’t enough. I’ve got to go over to Stephen Covey for help.”
If I’m counseling someone, “The Bible is not enough for counseling. I’ve got to fill up the holes with Rogers, Young, Freud,” etc.
“If I want to understand origins, Genesis 1-11 is not enough. I’ve got to plug up the problems—or the holes—or the gaps—with Charles Darwin.”
So, what you discover is that there is a total decline in evangelicalism concerning the sufficiency of the Scripture. That’s one of the reasons that I’m involved with Chafer Seminary. Because Chafer Seminary takes a position on that, where a lot of seminaries won’t. They’ll take a position on inerrancy/inspiration, but that’s only half the battle. What do you believe about sufficiency?
And what you discover about the Bible in terms of its own claims, is that the Bible claims to be sufficient for all matters of faith and godliness. Because Paul, writing to Timothy, says “All Scripture is inspired by God.” That’s fine. But in verse 17, he gets into sufficiency, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped [for what? Not just good works—] for every good work.” That’s a statement about sufficiency.
Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. That’s a statement about sufficiency.
How about the armor of God that we’re looking at on Sunday mornings in Sunday school? “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” That’s a statement about sufficiency.
I hope one of the things in which you grow in confidence in your Christian life is that you grow in confidence in the sufficiency of the Scripture. That the Scripture is enough for you to achieve godliness in this life.
Psalm 119. Earl knows that psalm pretty well. He’s itching to teach it pretty quick, down the road here. He’s been working on it. It’s got how many verses in it, Earl? 176 verses. It’s a tremendous psalm. I think it’s the longest in the psalter.
Each line begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it goes about 8 verses per section. In Psalm 119:99 you find a statement about the sufficiency of the Scripture. The psalmist says, “I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.”
Think about that for a minute. As a very young person sitting under teachers, by simply giving yourself to God’s Word you can have more insight than even those who are older and further along in life than you are. That’s a statement about sufficiency.
And sufficiency is to be contrasted with the Gnostic teachers who were claiming the secret knowledge. “You’ve got to come through us to get the secret knowledge.” Peter is saying, “No, you don’t. Look at what you have in the Bible. You have God’s promises, which are granted to you concerning everything pertaining to life and godliness.”
So, what are your resources for growth? Power (verse 3), knowledge (verse 3), promises (verse 4,) participation in the divine nature (verse 4). We will pick it up there in verse 3 next time.