2 Peter 3:14-16 “The Second Coming, Part 4: Holiness and Obedience”


Therefore beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace to be spotless and blameless. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom granted to him wrote to you. As also in all his letter speaking in them concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the un-discipled and unstable will twist, as they do the rest of Scripture, to their own destruction.


Peter is drawing his second letter to the saints of Asia Minor to a close. As expected, his conclusion is filled with commands. Peter uses four imperatives in these final five verses in order to make plain the need to apply the implications he has thus far presented. The whole of chapter three is set as an encouragement. Peter desires to encourage these beloved saints by reminding them of Old Testament truth and New Testament consistency with that truth (vv. 1-2). Peter specifically has been focusing on the truth of Christ’s return (vv. 3-7) and the right way of understanding the supposed delay of His return (vv. 8-10). More than reminding these saints of a right theology, Peter has linked biblical eschatology with biblical living (vv. 11-13). The verses before us continue along the lines of holy conduct began in v. 11, but what was left as implications from biblical truth are now turned into commands that cannot be ignored. It is imperative that the saints of Asia Minor live righteous lives because of the certainty of Christ’s return. With so much at stake and so much ground to cover, Peter narrows the whole Christian life down to two commands. Because of the second coming, the entire Christian duty can be boiled down to two things: be holy and make disciples.


Be Holy (v. 14)


Therefore beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace to be spotless and blameless


A new use of beloved (3:1, 8, 14, 17) introduces a new topic of encouragement. The participle προσδοκῶντες (look for) is repeated from vv. 12&13 and carries the same idea of anticipation and expectation. The participle is used causally here (since or because you look for). “These things” refers to the whole of vv. 10-13. The day of the Lord (v. 10), the destruction of the heavens and the earth (vv. 10&12) and the coming of the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells (v. 13) are the things that these people are looking for.


Peter is commending his audience. The following command is predicated on the fact that they already are looking forward to the day of Christ’s return. The present tense participle indicates this is what they do. They already are looking for these things because that’s what they do. That commendation is the foundation for Peter’s first command.


The imperative “be diligent” (σπουδάσατε) is the same root as “hastening” or (better) “eager” in v. 12 (σπεύδοντας). The implication from vv. 11-13 is that the audience was to be a holy and godly people who look for and are eager for the coming day of God. Here Peter tells them that he knows they do look for that day and therefore must be eager or diligent to be found by the Lord to be spotless and blameless. The infinitive “found” (εὑρεθῆναι) is the same root as the debated term in v. 10 (εὑρεθήσεται - exposed). The world and its works will be exposed by fire (v. 10). Peter commands his readers to be eager, to be diligent, to be zealous (1:10, 15) to be exposed as being spotless and blameless. The agent that will expose them is not fire, but the Lord Himself. Peter commands his readers to be exposed by Christ in peace. The Lord will expose all men for what they are, though most will not be exposed in the context of peace, but in wrath. The command therefore is to eagerly anticipate and put forth energy so that Christ would expose them as spotless and blameless individuals.


Peter presents another example of hendiadys (ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι) as was common in his introduction.[1] More woodenly, the negative α augment might render these terms as “without stain” and “without blemish.” These exact terms were used before by Peter to describe the holiness of Christ (1 Peter 1:19) while both roots (σπίλος and μῶμος/spots and blemishes) described the false teachers (2:13). In a nutshell, Peter is commanding his readers to be revealed and exposed as being like Christ and not like the false teachers.[2] The two are diametrically opposed to each other.


The purpose of a hendiadys is to combine two terms in order to describe a single idea. The idea presented here is holiness. Peter’s command is simple: eagerly seek to be exposed by Christ as holy. This command is more than good advice but is a necessary imperative. We know that the unrighteous will never enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). Those who are spots and blemishes are like unreasoning animals devoted to destruction (2:12-13). When the Lord returns, all works will be revealed or exposed (3:10). Those who are not exposed as spotless and blameless will be exposed as spots and blemishes and will therefore be burned along with the rest of creation. Peter does not preach works based righteousness here, yet the emphasis is squarely upon the responsibility of the readers.[3] The command is simple: be holy.


Make Disciples (vv. 15-16)


The second imperative comes in v. 15, yet most of this text functions as a kind of support. In the first half of v. 15 the command is given while the second half along with the whole of v. 16 supports and explains that command.


The Command is Given (v. 15a)


And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation


The imperative “consider” or “count” (ἡγέομαι) reflects a verb used several times by Peter in this letter. Peter counted/considered it correct to remind his readers by stirring them up (1:13). The false teachers count/consider it a pleasure to revel in the daytime (2:13). Those who are drawn in by false teachers are tempted to count/consider the patience of the Lord as slowness concerning His promise (3:9). The last reference (3:9) is important because there we also read the term “patience.” In 3:9 the indicative μακροθυμέω is used while here the cognate noun μακροθυμία is employed. The mockers and their followers consider the patience of God to be an indication that He is not able to fulfill His promise. Alternatively, Peter commands his readers to consider the patience of God as salvation. We know that the day of the Lord is stayed until all of God’s elect come to repentance (3:9). Therefore, consider this time of patience salvation. Get busy making disciples. Here the grace of God is extended to the unredeemed and the redeemed alike. For those in rebellion, there is grace to repent. For those who are regenerate, there is grace to grow in godliness. Use the time provided by this patience by making disciples.


The Command is Supported (vv. 15b-16)


The text takes an interesting turn here when Peter invokes Paul’s name. The purpose of bringing Paul into the discussion is very simple: solidarity. The undergirding mark of Peter’s argument since 1:1 is that his teaching is identical to the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Paul is likely one of the men in mind when Peter mentions “your apostles (3:2).[4] Here he claims that his message is the exact same message preached by Paul (v. 15b) and thus received the same response as did Paul’s (v. 16).


The Same Message (v. 15b)


Just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom granted to him wrote to you.


Just as Augustine was the favorite theologian for both Protestants and Roman Catholics to prove their opposing views, so Paul seems to be the champion of both the orthodox and heretic factions of eschatology and godly living. It seems that Paul’s writings have been purposefully misused to support the false teachers and mockers that Peter warns against. This is hardly surprising since Paul had to write the Thessalonians a second time regarding eschatology and the Ephesians had to be corrected through Timothy not to teach strange doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3). Peter claims Paul (correctly, we might add) for the side of orthodoxy. The prophets and apostles are united in their teaching for their wisdom comes from the same place. Note that Peter does not uplift Paul as particularly brilliant, but states that Paul wrote in accordance with wisdom that was granted to him. This is nothing short of a reference to the fact that Paul, like the Old Testament prophets, was moved by the Holy Spirit when he wrote (1:20-21).


Much ink has been spilt regarding the specific letter that Paul wrote to the same audience as Peter. Much of this discussion assumes some sort of error such as 2 Peter being a forgery or that 1 Peter is not the reference of 3:1-2. If we assume that 2 Peter is inspired Scripture, written by Peter, to the same audience as 1 Peter, then this is a very uninteresting discussion. There are three canonical letters first delivered to saints in Asia Minor by Paul: Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. Two of those letters were written for the purpose of being shared among other communities (Colossians and Ephesians) while the third (Galatians) was written to an entire region rather than to a single city. If we assume that only these three were known to Peter’s audience (which is absurd to limit only these three, for surely the Thessalonian letters at least would have circulated by this time), we see that Paul also taught that the church must busy herself with holiness and disciple making.[5] Peter and Paul preached the same message.


The Same Response (v. 16)


As also in all his letter speaking in them concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the un-discipled and unstable will twist, as they do the rest of Scripture, to their own destruction.


It’s worth noting that when Peter states that there are things in Paul’s letters that are difficult to understand, he does not say that he has difficulty in understanding them. In many ways, people’s lazy approach to Bible study reveals a blasphemous spirit. The difficulty of some passages does more to affirm a divine source than it does to discredit the author. The wisdom behind these writings is not human wisdom, but wisdom granted or given to the human penman. Richard Lenski rightly observes that “such wisdom always penetrates to the bottom of its subjects and does not skim over the top as a shallow mind does. The effort to understand some parts of such writings naturally taxes the νοῦς [mind] or thinking faculty. That is what the mind is for.[6] To suggest that some portions of Scripture require effort to think through as well as prior knowledge of texts that come before the one under examination is a long way from saying that some Scripture just can’t be understood. This must not be taken as an excuse for lazy Christians who fail to work up a mental sweat. This is an explanation why false teachers target the text that they do.


It is always the difficult passages that the un-discipled and unstable twist. If they were to target simple and straightforward texts, it would be harder to gain an audience. If the saints are forced to stop and think about anything, that’s the opportunity for false teachers to swoop in with their twisted explanation and morbid application. It is worth noting that Peter does not call these individuals stupid, but untaught or untrained (ἀμαθεῖς). The root is the same as the base for the term “disciple” (μανθάνω/μαθητής). They have never subjected themselves to training. They lack the most fundamental understanding of hermeneutics. Likewise, they are unstable (ἀστήρικτος) individuals, much like the victims they seek (2:14). They know very little of true Christianity and have never developed healthy biblical habits.[7] Like a landlubber tossed about on the deck of a ship in a gale, these men have no idea what they are doing, nor do they have the maturity to stand. Yet these are the very ones who twist Paul’s words out of context to meet their needs. Like a prisoner on the rack, they torture, twist, and distort the authorial intention of Scripture to get it to say what they want.[8] Yet this they do to their own destruction. Those who twist the words of Scripture earn their damnation. What a weighty reminder of the responsibility of the preacher and teacher of God’s most holy word.


Conclusion


Ironically, the medieval church recognized the weighty charge of teaching Scripture and thus adopted the practice of keeping the text of Scripture out of the hands of the laity. This is another example of a reasonably good intention not amounting to a hill of beans because of its ridiculously idiotic conclusion. Rather than motivating us to keep the Scriptures out of the hands of the people, this text should drive us to teach not only the Scriptures to the people, but also the method and means of studying the Scriptures. We must train the people of God to cease basing their arguments on emotions and sound bites from their favorite evangelical celebrities and begin basing their theology on the text of the Bible. In other words, we must begin to train the saints to study their bibles.


We are called to be holy and to make disciples. That’s it. But what is holiness and what are we to teach these disciples? Only those who are trained and stable will be able to answer that question. Let us devote ourselves to the study and application of the Scriptures until the day when our Lord returns for us.


Soli Deo Gloria!




[1] Peter Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2006), p. 294-5. [2] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 169. [3] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 394. [4] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), 352-3. [5] Schreiner, p. 394-6. [6] Lenski, p. 354-5. [7] Hiebert, p. 174-6. [8] Here is an excellent apologetic example of Paul’s writings being accepted as Scripture; i.e., accepted alongside the Old Testament writings.

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