Sermon Manuscript . . .
The One-Two Punch for Fighting Heresy
Peter’s main focus in 2 Peter 1 in preparation of 2 Peter 2
When Jean and I drive somewhere, 99% of the time I do the driving. While I am driving, she occasionally points out something unusual that she sees or some incredible scenery–as if I could actually turn my head and look at what she is talking about, unless it’s directly ahead or viewable from the rearview mirror. When you are a focused driver, when you are driving defensively, you can’t really look around and you do miss a lot of scenery.
The same is true of studying the Bible verse-by-verse. Sometimes, when you are concentrating, when you’re focused, when you’re hearing God’s Word for what it is–the words of our Savior, the instructions of our Creator–then you too may miss some of the big picture. You miss the scenery. It is easy for you to miss the forest when you’re concentrating on each tree. So before we launch into chapter 2 of 2 Peter, I want to overview chapter 1 for several important reasons.
1 Peter just taught in chapter 1 that you need to hear truths you already know–repeatedly, again and again, in order for you to learn them and live them.
2 For you to pick up what you might have missed because of the flu–today is not for those who missed church because you were tired from Saturday night, just wanted to stay home on a Sunday, or you again went to Disneyland.
Just recently a member was talking to a relative, and he told her FBC goes through the Bible verse-by-verse. And she said that’s dumb–people need topics and people can’t make it to church every week, so exposition through a book is dumb. Friends, it is dumb if you are not here–and of course, she doesn’t understand God’s Word. I am praying you do.
3 Because there are two main points in chapter 1 that prepare you for chapter 2–they are big picture points, the main issues Peter is emphasizing that you must know in order for you to stand against the heretics and error of our day. With the investment of studying twelve trees (twelve sermons) in chapter 1, you must not lose sight of the two major forests Peter is highlighting for you to learn and live.
Instead of keeping you in suspense–like a good news article, I will explain what they are, then draw out the truth of this incredible chapter in God’s Word. What are the two main points Peter wants you to own in order for you as a Christian and for all of us as a church to become able to expose and resist heretics and heresy? What will it take for you to stand strong against counterfeit Christianity? Ready?
Chapter 1 CHARACTER & CONFIDENCE are needed to resist the error described in chapter 2. In 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter invests verses 1 to 11 in character. And in 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter focuses verses 12 to 21 on confidence. This is the one-two punch to combat error and errorists–are you ready to punch? In boxing, it is the punch combination which most often leads to a knock-out. And the one-two combination for the Church and Christian against heresy is 2 Peter 1. Christlike character and confidence in accurate, apostolic biblical teaching.
When God teaches us through the apostle of the foot-shaped mouth at the end of his life, Peter is pointed. As he writes the churches that Paul planted in modern day Turkey, Peter teaches them in chapter 1 that they must first develop character in order to identify, then reject false teachers and their false teaching described in chapter 2. Peter makes a point that the character you and I must develop will include turning from the sins of this world and the sins of our own flesh in verse 4–but this character to develop must mainly consist of Christlike character, not just the putting off but the putting on . . . not merely the flee but the follow.
Peter says, to survive in the season of sacrilege, you must not only flee sin–but when fighting heresy, you must make certain you prioritize pursuing Christ, becoming like Christ. First Timothy 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Second Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
So ask yourself, since we began our study of 2 Peter twelve weeks ago, would you say you’ve grown in Christlike character? You understand character . . . How long can you leave your two-year old along before he gets into trouble? It seems for little girls, it might be 20 minutes–for little boys, it’s 2 to 20 seconds. How susceptible are your kids to the influence of others? There are some who are able to lead, rise above, even ignore the influence of others–but others follow the flock to the slaughterhouse. That’s a character issue.
Students, are you the type who pursues trouble, walks the edge, is attracted to the lies of the world, but only close enough to not get caught or called a compromiser? Parents, can you leave your students at home and know for a fact they will not get into trouble, compromise, or damage something? And are you mature enough, godly enough, Christlike enough to make the right decision, the biblical decision, the one that pleases Christ, the best decision on your own? All of that is based upon character with some wisdom thrown in.
Character is who you are when no one else is around or when every one of your friends is telling you to sin, but you determine to please Christ–that is sourced in your character. The false teachers eating at the 2 Peter churches were lustful, licentious, sensual and impure. So in order to reject them, believers must be pure in character. The false teachers were greedy, materialistic, money-hungry, motivated by gain–so in order to resist, Christians must be satisfied in Christ and content in character. Second Peter 1:8, “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.”
But the false teachers are also liars, who manipulate the Scripture who find things in the Bible that are not there, who use their imaginations to make up teaching, and who make preferences into principles. So in order to resist them, believers must have confidence in the Scriptures. They must be saturated in the content of the Bible, and most of all have confidence in the supernatural nature of the Bible. If our church, your family and each believer here will resist heresy and heretics, it will require the one-two punch of Christ-like character and biblical confidence taught in 2 Peter 1.
The Bible is God’s Word to us–our food, our guide, our wisdom and our communication with the Lord. Peter makes a big point at the end of chapter one for the believers to know that the true Scriptures were witnessed by apostles and supernaturally written by apostles, making the Bible God’s very breathed Word–living, active, alive, life-changing Word. Peter is telling His readers they must view God’s Word like 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” And Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Peter is teaching his readers to grow in confidence in the Scriptures, like the Thessalonians did in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Peter is teaching his readers they desperately need to know the supernatural nature of the Bible–witnessed personally by the apostles and written by God through His chosen apostles in the New Testament, and prophets in the Old Testament.
Along with that, to know the genuine teaching and doctrine of the Bible–in order to for you and I to stand firm against counterfeit Christianity, you must develop Christlike character and grow in deeper confidence in the Bible. That’s the forest which made up the individual trees (verses) of 2 Peter chapter one. Peters message in 2 Peter is pointed–Peter wants you to be so firmly established in Christ and in His character, and so confident in the Scriptures themselves that you cannot be shaken by any temptation or false teaching.
In chapter 3:17, he draws his letter to a close with this admonition. Second Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, … be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” How? Grow in character and confidence, found in 2 Peter chapter 1. How did Peter say it in chapter one? Two ways–to resist the heretics, develop . . .
How do I develop character, Chris? Peter answers, you need God to save you and give you faith, in verses 1 to 2. Second Peter 1:1 and 2, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter writes in verse 1, “to those who have received a faith” given to them by God. You didn’t choose God, but God chose you–if you’re a Christian, you are the chosen.
John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you“–that is how much God loves you. Even as His enemy, He chose you and made you family. Then in calling you, God gave you a new nature so you could respond to Him in faith–a faith which Peter says, verse 1, we receive. The New Testament tells us faith is a gift, and no one comes to be saved unless God makes it work. John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
And the point is, no man or no woman can become a person of Christlike character unless they have been transformed, given faith and have the Spirit of God working through a new nature to live for Christ. You can’t live like Christ without Christ. You can’t live for Christ unless it is Christ living through you.
Character starts with salvation, then it moves to God’s incredible provision, which plants character in you and makes it possible for you to live like Christ in verses 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.”
You have everything you need in salvation to live godly–to live like Christ and to grow deep in your knowledge of Christ. We have the promises of God’s Word, one of which is God has killed our old nature which was enslaved to sin, and we now have a new nature which is able to obey God’s Word and see God’s promises work in our lives in such a way that we can now overcome the world and also progressively conquer our own internal evil desires–our lusts.
Paul taught us God will finish what He started in your life in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” If God has saved you, He will sanctify you–you will grow, you will mature, and that means you will live more like Christ. And God’s work in saving you and transforming you is so complete, He can grow His character in you as you also diligently pursue developing His character.
Peter says it this way in verses 5 to 7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” Seven qualities, one for each day of the week in order for you and I to grow to be more like Christ in every way. Your faith is not merely about what you don’t do–your faith is not merely about not sinning. Your faith is designed to make you like Christ. Just like Paul said in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”
Now the benefits of walking like Christ and growing in the character of Christ are amazing. Not only will they prepare you to stand firm against error and errorists, but Peter immediately tells his readers that growing in Christ will cause you to grow fruitful in ministry, which will make you a blessing to others and bring you great reward in Heaven. Growing Christlike will also cause you to become super intimate and relationally close to Christ. Look at verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true [personal and intimate] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Instead of being an uncertain, unsure, questionable make-believer, growing in these qualities will cause you to be certain, and live with great assurance of salvation while you live on Earth and assuring you of your place in Christ’s Kingdom. Peter says it this way in verses 9 to 11, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Developing the qualities of verses 5 to 7 will give you assurance of salvation now and certain hope for eternity. But not developing the Christlike qualities of verses 5 to 7 will make you weak as a Christian or expose your true lost condition, because God will finish what He starts in the life of the believer. You will grow, you will be sanctified–remember Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” No growth, no sanctification–no progress over time means no genuine salvation.
Peter punches hard with character in chapter 1–why? Look at chapter 2:2 to 3, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” False teachers are deceptively filled with bad character, sensuality and greed. In order to resist counterfeit character, believers must grow in Christlike character. But there is a follow-up punch, one combined with character, one equally important and one that will finish those who are false. So along with character is . . .
Having confidence in your Bible, confidence which comes from knowing the very nature of the Scriptures–they are witnessed by the apostles and written by God through those same chosen men. Confidence in the Bible is a great safeguard against those who distort the Scriptures. Plus knowing the very content of the true Scriptures written by God through his preselected men is also a safeguard against those who malign the Bible. False teachers and heretics universally distort the Scriptures. Peter even warns his readers in chapter 2 and at the end of this letter in chapter 3.
Second Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” Speaking of Paul, Peter said in Peter 3:16, “as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Distort means to twist, to change the meaning, to be vague, to deceive.
The New Testament adds even more warnings. Second Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God.” Second Timothy 4:3 to 4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” The content of true apostolic Scripture and knowing the content of those writings is the best safeguard against the heretics and the heresy they teach.
Peter is writing the churches which Paul planted and which Paul wrote letters to. Peter is repeating truth that many of these believers have heard and been taught. But because character and confidence are so vital to their survival and yours, Peter says you need to hear these truths again in verses 12 to 15, “Therefore, 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, 14knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.”
Peter will continue to repeatedly teach these truths of character and confidence again and again. Peter will speak these truths and Peter will write these truths down, so in every way they would remember the importance of character and confidence. You and I need to hear these same truths repeatedly. You need to hear them and heed them. You need to listen to them and live them. You need to observe and obey them. You need to know the doctrine and do.
The false teachers were not learning nor living the truth of God’s Word–why? They were not family. Jesus says in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Doing the will of God is obeying the Word of God–and that proves you are family. And family needs to hear the truth repeatedly so they can be firm against error. But what is the nature of the truth–what makes up the real Scriptures?
As Peter writes this letter at the end of his life, the New Testament is not yet completed–the New Testament is still being written. But a good chunk of the New Testament, including the letters of Paul, is finished, being carefully copied in order to be in circulation to minister to churches around the Roman world. That means that at this time, there are prophets still supernaturally speaking the Word in churches and apostles being moved by God to record the Word. So how do believers know the true teaching from the false? And how do believers know they can trust the apostolic Scriptures and know how to reject other teachings and writings from those other guys? Simply by the author.
God chose to write His Word through His chosen men–the prophets for the Old Testament and the apostles for the New Testament. Jesus promised His men they’d remember what He taught them. They were uniquely promised the ability to communicate and later record God’s Word in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
Peter helps his readers know how to identify God’s true Word in verses 16 to 18. First, the true Scriptures were written by His apostles, who witnessed the events of the gospels and the New Testament. And second, in verses 19 to 21, it was written by his apostles who were supernaturally moved by God to write it. The truths of the Bible are not capricious–they are historical fact. The Bible was not made up or imagined–the New Testament Scripture is witnessed events.
The false teachers were particularly attacking the biblical teaching of the return of Christ and the reality of His second coming in glory. So Peter reminds his readers, He not only witnessed the events of the New Testament, but Peter also witnessed the second coming glory of Christ at the Transfiguration. In verses 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 is telling us the apostles were eyewitnesses of the events of the New Testament. You can trust their teachings and writings because they were there–they were present. These are not myths they made up, but historical facts they witnessed. And because God guaranteed they would remember and God moved them to write, the apostles’ writings are actually God’s inspired, God’s breathed words–which makes them even more sure than an actual apostolic experience. Verse 19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”
The true Word of God was written by God through his prophets in the Old Testament and apostles in the New Testament. As God supernaturally moved them to write, He used their personality, background, culture, education and moved in them to produce God’s perfect, inerrant, inspired Word. Peter makes this clear in verses 20 to 21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The Bible is not made up of Peter’s own ideas, imagination or agendas, but God the Spirit moved in the lives of these men so His sovereign Word was written–all God and all apostle results in God’s breathed Word. The readers then, and all of you today, can have confidence in God’s Word–confidence in His promises, convictions about His second coming, and everything that the apostles taught and all that is written in the Scriptures they were moved to write.
CHARACTER and CONFIDENCE–the needed one-two punch to knock out heresy and heretics. My family, my friends–you and I need 2 Peter 1 to grow in Christlike character and deepen our confidence in the nature of the Bible in order to stand firm against error.
TAKE THIS HOME
A Make a commitment to keep pursuing CHARACTER
Your faith is not merely about not sinning. Your walk is not merely about being nice. Your faith is seeing Christ manifest Himself instead of your fear, anger, or lack of trust. Your faith is Christ shining through with verses 5 to 7–moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. Christ planted these qualities in you when you were saved. Now in faith upon the Holy Spirit, you diligently pursue them. Make a commitment to go after character–why? So Christ may increase and you may decrease, so your kids will know Christ is alive in you, so you may grow assured of your salvation, and so you might say, “To live is Christ,” and mean it.
B Make a goal of LEARNING all of doctrine and the whole of Scripture
It is one thing to have confidence in the nature of the Bible, it is quite another to actually know what the Bible has to say. It is much harder for us to learn the Scripture in our culture because of distractions. This year, make it a point to not indulge in just one ongoing distraction and replace it with reading, studying and learning the Bible. Be like Job in 23:12b, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Is your Bible more treasured than food? Than In ‘N Out? 5 Guys?
Read the MacArthur Bible Handbook on a book of the Bible, then read that book every day for a month. Read a section of the Moody Handbook of Theology and talk it over with your family. Make a goal of learning all of doctrine and the whole of Scripture.
C Make a practice of APPLYING the Scripture
You can’t apply all of it every time you hear or study the Word, but you take one nugget, one truth and seek to live that truth. Write a reminder, a code letter on your hand, post it on your class folder, make it appear on your phone every hour–but live the Word. You know these warnings from Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” And James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Make a practice of applying the Scripture.
D Make certain you’re a GENUINE believer
Peter is pointed in His warnings–do not be blind (a make-believer), or shortsighted (a weak believer), but verse 10, “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”
Hey, there are a few unrepentant students here, where the only thing keeping you from totally fleshing out is you still live at home. There are a few unrepentant husbands here who, if it weren’t for the love of your spouse, you would manifest worse character. Be warned, friends–your judgment will be greater, because you know the truth. It is time for you to repent and weep over your rebellion, because you’re in big trouble without a Savior. Cry out to Christ to open your heart and pursue Him.