Peter closes his letter to those of like precious faith with these words of encouragement to mature in the grace and knowledge of their Savior: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (3:18). In the words of John Calvin, “He also exhorts us to make progress; for it is the only way of persevering, to make continual advances, and not to stand still in the middle of our journey; as though he had said, that they only would be safe who labored to make progress daily.”
The Bible Song, Psalm 92, begins “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most high.” Verses twelve through fourteen give us reason to give thanks to God, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat (fresh) and flourishing.” The assurance comes from God that there will surely be blessings. God’s children are compared to the tree that grows like a cedar of Lebanon. Though we may seem to be weak and burdened at times, in this world of dark wickedness, the church of our Lord and Savior will become as stately and strong as these Lebanon trees. We are planted in the very household of God, in the very courts of the triune and majestic Lord. It is in the fellowship of believers that we, even in our old age, shall know the freshness of life, flourishing in the word and communion of our Lord. Verse fifteen gives the intent or objective of this growth: “To show that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” We declare, in our growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord, the wonder and beauty of righteousness which is Christ’s alone. This is that righteousness which is imputed to us, justifying us before our Father in heaven that we are his.
As with the first epistle of God’s apostle, Peter encourages us to stir up our pure minds by way of reminder, in order that we “may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” Peter is speaking to those who have a “pure”—sincere, genuine—faith faith in Christ, who have tasted of the righteousness of their Savior, who have been taught by the word of God. Christians ought to care for their faith as they do their bodies, understanding the need to exercise faith and body. Our faith-exercise has to do with our hunger and thirst after righteousness, desiring the meat of God’s Word, that we may be able to deal with the scoffers who are among us, not “walking according to their own lusts.”
These scoffers can be found within the church. There are those who ridicule the faith, questioning the Word of God, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming?” They make mockery of the prophets who have long died, saying, “for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” The scoffers look for any excuse that will rationalize their behavior. They come with their heads high with self importance, “walking after their own lusts.”
The scoffers, teaching doctrine which accord to their own desires, have willfully forgotten the truth according to the Word of God. They are willfully being ignorant of this: “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” Wicked men are willfully ignorant of the Creator and Redeemer. It is God who keeps his promises that they have chosen to ignore. The world and its rivers and oceans exist by the very word of God. They are maintained by the same word of God. Therefore, his promise to bring judgment upon the earth comes by his word. By the word of God the world exists, even through his bringing upon it the great flood. We must not forget the promises and work of the Sovereign Lord. For they give us confidence in the promises to be kept.
Peter continues, for in the same manner today, “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Christ has come and is reigning over his creation and his Church now. Christ will come at the time of the final judgment. The water of the day of Noah, and the promise of the fire to come, indicates the judgment upon the wicked. The scoffers are to take note. Even today “we see many such at this day who being slightly imbued with the rudiments of philosophy, only hunt after profane speculations, in order that they may pass themselves off as great philosophers” (Calvin). These scoffers of the world are like “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom are reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).
Discussion: What is power and nature of the Word of God?
We, as the beloved of God in Christ Jesus, are not to “be ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We are not to forget that our Sovereign Lord is working all things together for his glory and the good of those for whom he shed his precious blood. As he is with us today, he has in mind his present and eternal promises, and how his will is to be accomplished in each generation. God works out the future, the days to come, by accomplishing his will for today. As he has set the winds in motion that will bring the rains and storms and sunshine of the tomorrow, so he is working in us to carry out his purpose in eternity. Calvin reminds us: “For waiting seems very long on this account, because we have our eyes fixed on the shortness of the present life, and we also increase weariness by computing days, hours, and minutes. But when the eternity of God’s kingdom comes to our minds, many ages vanish away like so many moments.”
Let us be patient, not anticipating God’s work; for “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be carried out for the salvation of all those for whom he paid a ransom price. The one who holds us in his hands has promised that his Father in heaven has “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and, “whosoever believes in (the Son) should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15–16).
Verses ten through thirteen teach us about the coming of the Day of the Lord. This Day of the Lord “will come as a thief in the night.” We know by the times that there will be a coming of the Lord in judgment, but we will not be able to tell just when this will be. What will happen before the very eyes of those who have gone on before, and those who are on the earth, is this: “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” How does this match up with the statement that we are to look for that day of God when the “the elements will melt with fervent heat”?—“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” Therefore, looking “for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” we ought to “be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
There is, in the passing away of the old, a cleansing work of God in giving to his people a new life after that of the righteousness of Christ that gives us a taste of the new heavens and a new earth. A process of renovation is taking place to get rid of all of the pollution which man has brought upon this world. We are taught in Scripture that “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). The new heavens and new earth will be like that of today, except, it will be a place where true righteousness dwells.
Discussion: What manner of persons ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness?
Our holy conduct begins by being diligent to be like Christ in truth and righteousness; and “‘in peace, without spot and blameless.” We are to be diligent to be like Christ; for Christ made peace between us and the Father through his redeeming work on the cross of Calvary. We read in Colossians 1:19–20 that it pleased our heavenly Father that by “him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross.” A mark of a Christian is peace. The Christian has peace within himself through fellowship with Christ and his Word.
We are encouraged to be blameless before a wicked world by thinking upon “the longsuffering of our Lord,” which is for the salvation of his people. So also, we are not tossed to and fro by the philosophies of the wicked, allowing the situation to make us frenzy with anger, but to act accordingly, with the strength of knowing that we are at peace with God in Christ, to the salvation and help toward those around us. Surely, as Peter refers us to Paul’s wisdom given to him by God, there are “some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction.” This is the confrontation of the people of God in all ages.
Let us, therefore, beware of the traps of the scoffers and wicked teachers, lest we fall from our “own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.” We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” GRACE referring to “those spiritual gifts we obtain through Christ. But as we become partakers of these blessings according to the measure of our faith,” KNOWLEDGE “is added to grace; as though he had said, that as faith increases, so would follow the increase of grace” (Calvin). Let us go to the Word of God, in prayer and in worship, one with another, that to Christ “be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
Discussion: How should we consider Christ in our worship, home, and work?
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