IV. Finally, because you foreknow these things, do not allow the opposition to rob you of spiritual progress. 3:17-18
A. Watch that you do not fall into the error of the ungodly. 17
B. Grow in the grace and knowledge of the glorious One. 18
My wife has struggled with various plants to get them to grow. We used to live in Pachuca, Mexico, where because of the elevation the sun is extremely intense and there is not a whole lot of regular rain. So much depends on the position of the plant—whether it gets too much sun or not enough rain. So all of my wife's planning went into putting the plants where they would most likely grow, because growth is the whole idea. This is the goal of the Christian life as well. Lack of growth means stagnation and uselessness with regard to our purpose (Eph. 2:10).
In Peter's conclusion to the second of his epistles, he gives a summary of each major section of the book. He summarizes our motivation for growth from chapter three, our obstacles to growth from chapter two, and our need for growth from chapter one.
Once again, Peter uses 'therefore,' this time to introduce his summary. The 'this' of the phrase, "Since you know this beforehand" must refer back to the section he has just concluded—3:11-16. What we his readers would "know" is that the day of the Lord is coming. Since we know that this is going to happen, we should be motivated, as he pointed out throughout chapter three. And the response that our foreknowledge should stimulate is to be on guard. This verb is common and is used in situations like shepherds guarding their sheep (Luke 2:8), Jesus guarding His disciples (John 17:12). It is in the continuous present, so the idea is, "be constantly on guard."
What is to be guarded against is being taken in by the false teachers of chapter 2—the "unprincipled men." The verb "carried away" is used in Gal. 2:13 referring to Barnabas being carried away by the hypocrisy of the judaizers. The "error" of these unprincipled men could be either doctrinal or moral, or perhaps both. The result of being carried away, according to Peter, is falling from one's firm position. Again, Peter is aligning himself with Paul's teaching, in this case 1 Cor. 15:58: "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."
These false teachers are a constant source of danger to Christians, and, unfortunately, many Christians are indeed carried away. I read of a woman who came to a famous Bible teacher and asked him to rescue her faith. She had been carried away by the wild unfounded claims of The Da Vinci Code, and had no resources of her own to counter the media hype. I hate to sound negative, but it seems that Christians who can hardly stay awake during their pastor's sermons get all worked up when any popular book or especially any movie denies the accuracy of Christianity.
In v. 18 Peter contrasts growing with the falling of v. 17. The remedy for falling from one's position is to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." This is a clear reference to Peter's capsule view of the Christian life in chapter one, especially vv. 3-11. Again, he is stressing continuous action—"always be growing." But how do we grow? In 1 Pet. 2:2 Peter has already said that we grow when we desire the "pure milk of the Word." Eph. 4:15 ties growth with the ministry of the pastor-teacher, indicating that we should take advantage of the teaching ministries of the church. Christians grow by putting themselves into situations where growth can take place—like my wife placing the plants where they would get the most rain and not get burned by the sun. As opposed to the plants, however, we have a choice. Peter makes this a command.
In this masterful summary, the apostle gives us wonderful clues about the spheres of growth. We are to grow in the sphere of grace and in the sphere of knowledge concerning our Savior. The first sphere, grace, has to do with our perspective in life. Our whole lives, from salvation to service are controlled by grace. Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace." The meaning of grace is that God offers us all of His benefits and blessings freely—no cost or obligation. One of the keys of the life of a believer in Christ is to learn to appropriate the grace of God. He gives freely, we should learn to receive freely. We must learn to live, not in a legalistic attitude, but in a grace attitude: I am free to serve God out of love, not out of obligation.
The second sphere, knowledge concerning Christ, has to do with the foundation of our life. The apostle John says that eternal life is to know God and Christ (17:3). Christ is the key to our lives because we are in Him (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:17); we are part His body (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12). In addition, we are being transformed into His image by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). In fact, the Holy Spirit testifies of Christ (John 15:26); therefore when the Spirit works in us one of the things He does is to help us to know Christ better. In fact, the goal of our Christian life, according to Eph. 4:13, is that "we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Everything points to Him. Paul says in Col. 1:15-19a:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him
all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created
through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased
the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.
Peter began with the prayer, "May grace and peace be multiplied to you by means of the complete knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus" (1:2). Now he ends with an admonition to grow in that knowledge. In the eighteenth century William Law advised, "From morning to night keep Jesus in your heart, long for nothing, desire nothing, hope for nothing, but to have all that is within you changed into the spirit and temper of the Holy Jesus." Growth in the grace and in the knowledge of Christ will keep us from falling from our firm position; it will keep us steadfast and triumphant.
Peter has such a high view of Christ that three times he uses the fullest combination of His titles, "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ": 1:11; 2:20 and here in 3:18. Christ in His fullest is the climax of this book which is itself the climax of the New Testament's view of how to live as a Christian. All of the apostle's concern focuses on the Savior he once knew as a man, but later came to know as the eternal One from God who, according to the last phrase of v. 18, deserves all glory for all eternity.
I hope this study has given you a clear view of the Epistle of Second Peter. Even more, I hope this study will prompt you to live the life that Peter's epistle outlines for us. May God bless you richly.
2 Peter Flow Chart
2 Peter 1:1-7
2 Peter 1:8-11
2 Peter 1:12-15
2 Peter 1:16-21
2 Peter 2:1-3
2 Peter 2:3b-10a
2 Peter 2:10b-22
2 Peter 3:1-6
2 Peter 3:7-10
2 Peter 3:11-16