Sermon Manuscript . . .
Confident Resistance Against the Current of Error
Introduction to 2 Peter
My first experience was the gutter–a big rain and the gutter was filled with a current of water, like a mini-stream in our neighborhood. Watching graduated to wading, which then moved to building wooden boats to float in these rain-made flows. Then you grow up a little and you visit real streams and full rivers, and you realize the currents of these waterways can potentially be dangerous, even deadly.
Once I was caught re-crossing the Kings River. I was pre-warned if I waited too late in the day, that the snow melt of a hot day would increase the water flow, making it impossible to cross. I was doing fine, until one of my shoes slipped off my foot, but still remained tied to my ankle, creating a drag that slowed me enough to not make it across. I got hung up, literally smashed against a huge boulder. To avoid being dashed against sharp rocks just 20 yards away, I had to be rescued by friends who were with me, by forming a human chain along with branches. Arrogance almost got me killed.
Caution must be taken around potentially dangerous currents. One of the scariest currents is on the top of Vernal Falls in the Yosemite Valley. Once you hike to the top, just 25 feet from the waterfall edge is a calm eddy with a great view of the water going over the 300-foot drop. It’s gorgeous and deceptively dangerous. I stood in that eddy, a calm pool of water, many times–enjoying God’s creation.
Yet just a few weeks after standing in that eddy, three Christian collegians stood in that exact spot. For some unknown reason, one of them ventured out one step too far and slipped and was pulled into the current. The next one tried to grab him, then the third–and in two seconds, all three were dragged over the falls to their deaths. Just a calm eddy, yet with one small slip–disaster. Yet this is where each one of you stand right now. It seems calm, it appears safe–but one slip and certain death awaits. Spiritual death for the unsaved and spiritual ruin for the saved.
Open to 2 Peter–this book was written to keep you safe on the shore of biblical conviction, to convince you of the danger of calm eddies which sit on the edge of strong currents, in order to prevent you from slipping to your ruin or death. Today we introduce an overview of our next year of study, as Peter gives us four rocks–four foundations of the truth and safety in the midst of a river of error and danger, four necessary convictions to stand firm in the midst of the rushing current of heresy.
No book gives you a clearer picture of the false teacher and his errant teaching (except maybe for Jude) and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter gives you his four rocks of stability to stand strong in an age of error.
1 Know your SALVATION with Certainty 1:3-11
2 Depend on your SCRIPTURES with Dogmatism 1:12-21
3 Understand your ADVERSARIES with Discernment 2:1-22
4 HOPE in your FUTURE with Christ with Anticipation 3:1-18
What are the rocks Peter tells you to cling to in order to be safe in the current of error? Knowing your salvation, depending on the Scriptures, understanding your enemy and hoping in your heavenly home. How true are those of you? Four solid rocks to cling to in the midst of a raging current meant to kill you with error. Know your salvation, know your Scriptures, know your adversaries and know your future. That’s the great apostle Peter at the end of his life, guiding Christians in his final letter–Petrus B or 2 Peter–look at chapter one and let’s get a sneak peek at what’s ahead.
We know Peter wrote this letter, because it’s filled with references only Peter could say. Read 2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ“–Peter tells us he is the author of this letter. Read 2 Peter 1:14, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” Peter refers to his coming death, which the Lord revealed to him in the gospels.
Read 2 Peter 1:16 to 18, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’— 18and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Peter had seen and reaffirms here his witness of the Transfiguration. All of chapter two exposes the character of false teachers and no false teacher is going to write a letter which exposes false teachers. So even though 2 Peter was not immediately accepted into the canon of 27 books, eventually it was completely embraced as inspired Scripture, written by the great apostle himself, since 2 Peter totally fits the style and vocabulary of a Jew of the first century at the end of his life.
This is the end for Peter’s earthly ministry–2 Peter is his last will and testament, written to make certain we can withstand the errant rapids seeking to suck us in and drown us spiritually. This is a letter written by a man you all know and we all love–why? He is just like us . . .
AN IMPERFECT MAN Test what you remember about Peter. The Apostle Peter is one of the great testimonies of how a powerful Savior can transform a life. Along with being the apostle of the foot-shaped mouth, Peter was the most outspoken and boldest witness for Christ. He was born about 1 BC and died 68 AD. His original name was Simon. You remember it was Jesus who changed his name to Peter–The Rock.
He was a Galilean fisherman and the brother of super-servant, Andrew–also a future apostle. The brothers came from Bethsaida and later moved to Capernaum. Peter was married–his wife’s name was Mrs. . . . wife of Peter, Mrs. Rock, Madame Mysterious. We don’t know. Peter was a follower of John the Baptist. He was called to repentance by the baptizer when Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus. Along with Andrew, Peter was probably the first disciple called by Christ to be in His twelve.
Back then, like today, fishermen were hardworking, gruff and boisterous. They also had to be brave, since sudden storms came on the Sea of Galilee, which could easily capsize their 30-foot boat. Peter was a loud one, removing one foot from his mouth only to insert the next one. But the brothers dropped their entire fishing business–all their income, all their security to follow Christ and become fishers of men.
Peter was early in recognizing Christ as more than a man, the God-man. Peter was often overwhelmed with unworthiness to be in Christ’s presence. Yet he never lost his boldness, and was continually blurting out right and wrong statements. Peter rebuked the Lord. Peter denied Christ three times. Peter experienced the Transfiguration when Christ’s humanity was peeled back and His glory was revealed.
Peter preached the first sermon and the 3,000 converts birthed the Early Church in Acts 2. Peter boldly stood firm against the Jewish religious leaders when they began persecuting the apostles. Peter later carried on a unique ministry of the apostles around the civilized world–he was the overseer and voice of the first written gospel, the Gospel of Mark. And though he was not the first pope, Peter did minister to the Church in Rome.
Peter wrote 1 Peter and now writes 2 Peter to assist the churches prior to his death–a death by crucifixion, which Jesus predicted in John 21 and which tradition tells us was upside down. He was crucified upside down because Peter insisted–he felt unworthy to be crucified the same way as His Lord.
From an arrogant, cocky, boisterous man, he became a humble, willing, obedient servant of the Lord. The lowly fisherman became a mighty fisher of men. If he lived 69 years, his last 33 were devoted to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nero died in AD 68 and tradition tells us Peter died under Nero’s persecution.
WHAT’S THE OCCASION? Second Peter was most likely written just before Nero died in AD 67-68. What’s it all about? Since writing his first letter, Peter had become increasingly concerned about false teachers who were infiltrating many of the churches in Asia Minor. Though these false teachers had already caused trouble, Peter expected their heretical doctrines and immoral life-styles to do more damage in the future. So Peter writes this second letter to warn believers in Christ then and today about the doctrinal dangers they were facing.
Peter does not explicitly say where he was when he wrote this letter, but the consensus seems to be Peter wrote this letter from prison in Rome while he was expecting imminent death. Most believe Peter is writing the same churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, that he wrote in his first letter. Most likely these are Churches he had visited and ministered to. In 1 Peter 1:1 he names these mainly Gentile churches, “to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
And as he writes, Peter the Rock shares crucial survival techniques–rocks to cling to. Peter wants us to know. Peter makes the importance of knowledge very clear in this letter. Now you and I both understand that knowledge can be a source of pride. Knowledge can even be used to mask an unholy life. You know so-called believers who really know their Bibles, but don’t live the Bible. But friends, Peter says, make no mistake–you will never become a mature Christian, never be a godly man or woman unless you know the truth of God’s Word.
The word knowledge appears in some form sixteen times in these three short chapters. Peter will show us the primary solution to false teaching is knowledge of true doctrine–not just general knowledge, but specific knowledge . . . not merely knowledge of the head, but of the heart . . . knowledge you not only learn, but knowledge you live.
Some of his readers, and maybe some of you, may say–“I know the Word, Peter. I know the truths you speak of.” And Peter will say to you, “Then let me stir you up by way of reminder. Keep learning, keep knowing, keep on the alert. You must know these things to survive. I am the Rock, Peter–and I am giving you the rocks for you to cling to so you are not swept away by the powerful currents of error.”
What are the rocks 2 Peter will charge us with? Are these true of you today? Parents, you need these to guide your students. Students, this is the only way you will survive at school with friends. Singles, these are necessary to keep your heart right. Seniors, these truths must be a part of you every day.
#1 KNOW your SALVATION with CERTAINTY 1:3-11
This first section of 2 Peter will rock your world. Turn to 2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith.” Right out the gate, Peter clarifies that salvation can only be accomplished by God through Christ. Peter declares your salvation is only something God can initiate. Verse 1, you “received a faith.” You are so dead in sin, you don’t ask for salvation until God changes your heart to want it.
Know your salvation with certainty. Look at 2 Peter 1:3 to 4, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4For 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.”
Struggling Christian, students who are unsure, those of you weak in faith–Peter demands that you know with certainty you can live the Christian life. Salvation is so transforming, God gives you all you need to live for Him, and every genuine believer will live for Christ. Peter expands this truth in verses 5 to 11. God gives every single believer, whether 12 years old or 80, the power to grow in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
When salvation is true, you will grow to be more like Christ in character and lifestyle–it may be fast or slow, but you are gonna grow. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the same truth in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” All real believers live differently because genuine salvation is radically life transforming. First John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Know your salvation with certainty. Peter warns his church-attending readers then (and right here) that you must evaluate the genuineness of your salvation by making certain you are growing in character. Peter is pointed in 2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” Peter encourages you in verse 8 and warns you in verse 9.
Encouragement–verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then warning, verse 9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” This phrase hits a theological bullseye. Though God is sure who His elect are and has given them an eternally secure salvation, the Christian professor might not always have assurance of salvation. Security is a fact revealed by the Holy Spirit that salvation is forever. Assurance is one’s confidence he or she possesses that eternal salvation.
Peter will teach us–those who claim Christ, who manifest a growth in genuine Christlike character will have assurance. But those who don’t, over time need to question whether they are real believers (or make-believers), like those Paul describes in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” The first rock that rescues you from error is to know your salvation with certainty. It is crucial we practice communion every Sunday to remember what Christ has done. But go beyond that, friends–train your mind to remember your salvation daily.
#2 DEPEND on your SCRIPTURES with DOGMATISM 1:12-21
Next Peter wants us to not only know the Scriptures, but to understand the very nature of the Bible,
God’s inspired and revealed words given through His Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. Peter wants his error-assaulted readers to know which words are God’s Word–which teaching is the truth and what words are phony.
Lots of sincere Christian-in-name types will say, “Here is a word from the Lord,” but it is not from the Bible. There are others who state they’ve received a message from God, but it is not found in God’s Word. There are others who speak as if they were giving a direct revelation from God, but they are merely quoting truths from the Bible. There are those who claim to teach God’s Word, but they are not teaching from the Bible.
This was happening in the Early Church and Peter wants his readers to know how you determine truth from the false. Peter first says, don’t trust experiences. Peter describes his true experience of the Transfiguration–he was there, it was real, it was incredible. But then he says this in verse 19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure.” The written Word of God trumps all experiences–even real ones, even the Transfiguration. Because the written Word of God is God’s actual words.
Peter continues with a strong statement on the nature and authority of the Scripture, verses 20 and 21–“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Peter details the process of inspiration. Peter says Scripture is not of human origin, neither is Scripture the result of human will. No part of Scripture was produced solely because men wanted it so. The Bible is not the product of sheer human effort. The prophets, in fact, often wrote that which they did not understand, but they were nevertheless faithful to write what God revealed to them.
Peter is really clear–men were “moved by the Holy Spirit” to write. Grammatically, they were continually carried or borne along by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the divine author, originator and producer of the Scriptures. Though the human writers were not passive but active in the process of writing Scripture, God the Holy Spirit superintended them so that, using their own individual personalities, thought processes, and vocabulary, they composed and recorded the exact words God wanted written without error.
The original documents of Scripture are therefore inspired–God-breathed and inerrant, without error. The Holy Spirit, as divine author and originator of all Scripture, worked through humans to convey the Word of God and give us the Bible. Therefore, trust the Bible. Do not trust experiences, feelings, events, emotions, ideas, or circumstances, but trust the Word.
The false teachers in the late 60s of the first century were promoting destructive heresies. They were distorting the true picture of Christ as God and man, Lord and Creator, Judge and returning King. They were altering the Gospel and generally elevating their ideas over the Scriptures–warping the Bible so much so that God’s Word was lost.
Peter knew the false teachers would attempt to discredit this letter, so he countered their arguments by reminding his readers of the nature and context of the Bible. Peter knew they’d accuse him of concocting fables and myths as a way to manipulate his audience. So Peter gave evidence in this passage to prove he wrote the truth of God as a genuinely inspired writer. Then in chapter three Peter declares the writings of the great apostle Paul as Scripture, and uses them to confirm his instruction on the importance of the end times.
So how do we not get swept away by the current of error? We completely rely upon the rock of Scripture–we depend on the knowledge of the only truth. When you read, study, memorize, and meditate upon the Bible, you express confidence in God. Peter says, “Don’t cling to your thoughts, ideas, or feelings–don’t listen to stories, but trust in the written Word of God. Read your Bible, study your Bible, look for application to your current challenges, questions and trials by standing confidently in healthy doctrine, which springs from a normal interpretation of Scripture. Compare everything to the Bible.
#3 UNDERSTAND your ADVERSARIES with DISCERNMENT 2:1-22
In chapter 2, Peter generically describes the false teachers who’re attacking the churches. Peter does not identify a specific false religion, a cult, or a system of teaching, but generally informs his readers that these dangerous men teach destructive heresies. They deny Christ and twist the Scriptures. They bring true faith into disrepute. And they mock the second coming of Christ. Yet more than their teaching, Peter was even more concerned to show the immoral character of these teachers than to expose their teaching.
In our day, people are mainly concerned about what someone teaches and we don’t even bother reviewing their character–but not Peter . . . not the New Testament, not the Lord. Peter describes the false teachers in more detail than he describes their doctrines. Sound doctrine, when believed and followed, makes you like Christ–it is healthy doctrine. But destructive heresy, when believed and followed, may result in emotional experiences, dry intellectualism–but produces a life of selfishness, pride and wickedness.
So Peter warns his readers to develop Christian character (in chapter 1:5 to 11), so they can enjoy true assurance of salvation, Rock 1. Secondly, Peter seeks to persuade his readers of the divine character and sufficiency of the apostolic writings (in chapter 1:12 to 21). Why? Think–Christian maturity is seen by increased discernment. If you’re genuine, you will increasingly depend on the Scriptures for everything. As a result, you’ll grow in discernment, enabling you to stand firm against false teachers. This is what you need–these are the rocks to rely upon. And one final boulder . . .
#4 HOPE in your FUTURE with Christ with ANTICIPATION 3:1-18
Jesus Christ is coming again and you and I need to live in daily anticipation. Matthew 24:30b, “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”
John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”
In 1 Peter 3, Peter anticipates the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ “as a thief in the night.” But at the end of 2 Peter, he describes the reasons for the delay in Christ’s Second Coming. His emphasis is different in 1 Peter, where he teaches the Second Coming is near, and 2 Peter describes its delay. In 1 Peter he was ministering to suffering Christians, so it focuses on the imminence of Christ’s return as a means of encouraging Christians. Second Peter is dealing with scoffers, so it emphasizes the reasons why the imminent return of Christ has not yet occurred.
Peter makes some strong, and often misinterpreted, statements about your future. Turn to 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand” years, and a thousand years like one day.” What does that mean? God understands time very differently from us. From a human point of view, Christ’s coming seems like a long time away. From God’s viewpoint, it will not be long.
Peter reminds his readers, any delay in Christ’s return from the human perspective will never be taken as an indication that God is loitering or that He is late. The passage of time is a clear signal of God’s immense capacity for patience before He breaks forth in judgment. What is God waiting for? For you, he tells us in verse 9. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The Lord is talking about those He is going to redeem–He is waiting until all whom He has chosen are called and respond in repentance and faith. The whole passage is about God’s destroying the wicked–His patience is not so He can save all of them, but so He can receive all His own. He is not waiting for everyone to be saved, since the emphasis of the passage is He will destroy the world and the ungodly.
Those who do perish and go to Hell go because they are depraved and worthy only of Hell–they have rejected the only remedy, Jesus Christ, not because they were created for Hell nor predetermined to go there. The path to damnation is the path of an unrepentant heart. It is the path of one who rejects the person and provision of Jesus Christ and holds on to sin. Ezekiel 18:32, “ ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Therefore, repent and live.’ ”
Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 1 Timothy 2:3 and 4, “God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
TAKE THIS HOME By turning to 2 Peter 1:12
A Welcome REMINDERS
Chris, you didn’t say one new thing today–I knew all this. Yes, but are you living it? James 1:22 says, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” And Peter adds this in 2 Peter 1:12 and 13, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.” All real believers, even mature believers, desperately need reminders to live the Word.
B Cling to the ROCKS
Peter is describing our day. Make certain you are building your life upon Peter’s confident truths–knowing your salvation, depending on the Scriptures, understanding your enemies and hoping in your heavenly home. Work into your life a daily reminder of your incredible salvation found only in Christ. Force yourself to turn only to the Scriptures for answers to everything you face. Make certain you understand the workings of your own flesh, the world and the devil and how he can mislead you with false teachers. And no matter how comfortable you are, keep focusing on and longing for your true home in Heaven.
C Get to know your REDEEMER
The knowledge Peter extols in this deeply theological letter is a knowledge that grows and progresses. As Christians, we need to grow in our personal knowledge of Christ. The greatest protection against false teachings comes from a solid foundation in the Word of God as being the words of the Lord you love. Peter’s epistle will encourage you to attain a fuller, deeper, more thorough knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
D Depend on God’s REVELATION
Some believers trust in their church. Some trust in their pastors. Others trust in a spouse or parents or family. A few completely trust in loyal friends. Still others depend on home schooling, some in sports, or getting the right friends. Many in this room trust in their external choices to not indulge in certain non-biblical behavior. Others trust in not participating in certain practices. There are some in this room who depend on fear, worry and anxiety to live by. Some students here are content to be indifferent.
Some think they have found some choice which will be the key to their children’s salvation, happiness in life, success in business, and joy in relationships. But Peter says for the genuine believer, he is to depend on God’s revelation–God’s Word. No choice you make, no action you take, no work you do will save you or sanctify you. Only God’s Word brings salvation to you and your children.
Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And only God’s Word brings sanctification to you and your children. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” God’s Word is the only path to be saved, to grow, to defeat temptation, to grow in discernment and to impact those you love. Your children must see you depend on God’s Word–it is the only book to trust.
E Anticipate Christ’s soon RETURN
This world is not our home–our home is in Heaven. And Christ is coming soon to rule this world, then end this world and make a new Earth and a new Heaven, where those who are in Christ will live forever in total joy and sinless bliss. And Christ is going to bring all this about–but He is waiting for one of you. Would you please cry out to Christ to save you, give you faith and repentance, become born again–so Christ will begin His end game? And would you please hurry up?
Stop loving this world, stop laying up treasure on Earth, stop clinging to things here–and each day look forward to Christ coming and you going home to be with Him. Second Peter is going to rock your world. Let’s pray.