II Peter 3: 17-18
Kept From Falling.
Part I. Peter, through whom the Lord gives this epistle, which is so valuable, specially for the days in which we live, was eminently fitted to write it. Through his not having learned, "to put no confidence in the flesh," he boasted he would never deny his Lord, and this resulted in his having a very sad fall. The Lord knowing what was before Peter, said to him, "Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22: 31-32). Peter was to be converted from a very self-confident man to a very humble, dependent man. The chaff of self-confidence was to be removed, and the wheat of confidence in the Lord was to remain, so that after his experience in connection with the fall, he would be able to give help and instruction to others who were in danger of also falling.
Throughout chapters two and three of the epistle, he points out the dangers, the rocks upon which any one of us is liable to make shipwreck, and then concludes the epistle with expressing the earnest desire of his heart, for all who belong to the Lord, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen."
The growth in grace comes first, and in knowledge next. Growing in knowledge apart from grace puffs up (1 Cor. 4: 6-18; 1 Cor. 5: 2), but love does not puff up. (1 Cor. 13: 4).
Growing in knowledge apart from grace is like a sailboat without ballast, top heavy and liable to be wrecked in a storm. but growing in grace is the ballast that will steady the Christian who grows in knowledge and enable him to sail safely through the worst of storms that may be encountered. "It is not the gale but the set of the sail" that determines our course, as we pass through this storm- tossed scene. Do not put confidence in man, have faith in God (Mark 11: 37).
Doubt sees the obstacle, faith sees the way;
Doubt sees the darkest night, faith sees the day;
Doubt dreads to take a step, faith soars on high;
Doubt questions "Who believes?" faith answers, "I."
Peter's faith in himself led to his fall, but after his wonderful and complete restoration, he desired that the young in Christ, the newborn babes might desire the sincere milk of the Word that they might grow thereby (1 Peter 2: 2), grow in grace and in knowledge.
Now the things that would hinder this growth have also by the Spirit of God been revealed through Peter. In chapter 3: 17, he raises a danger signal, saying "Beware lest being led away by the error of the wicked (lawless or unrestrained), ye fall from your own steadfastness."
Just as certain diseases of the body are infectious, so in spiritual things, we, the Lord's people are more or less affected by conditions around us. The air we breathe is loaded with disease-producing germs and the important thing is, to maintain a healthy condition of body which will provide resistance, a power within to throw off the germs we have inhaled so that disease is not produced. So in spiritual things, the air is filled with evil spirits (Eph. 6: 12) and we need to maintain a good condition spiritually, by growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, so that we may not be led away by the error of the lawless and fall from our steadfastness.
Peter, as he looked on to the last days in which we are living, saw it was not something new was needed. "What is new is not true and what is true is not new." He saw that what we need is the old truth revived by the power of the Spirit in our minds and hearts. He says, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance (Chap. 3: 1 see also chap. 1: 12, 13, 15).
He points out the effects produced in the world when people turn away from God and His Word. In Chap. 1: 4, he speaks of "the corruption that is in the world through lust." They shall utterly perish in their own corruption. (Chap. 2: 12). As to the false teachers who promise people liberty, he says "They themselves are the servants of corruption" (Chap. 2: 19). Surely the world today is a cesspool of iniquity. We are confronted with perils on every hand, so let the word of warning be heeded lest we fall.
Throughout chapters two and three of the epistle, he is pointing out what is characteristic of the lawless, the rocks on which we are liable to make shipwreck. They may be summed up under three heads. First error. "False Doctrine," the foundation of the faith once for all delivered to the saints is attacked. Second error. (Chap. 2: 1-4). Rebellion against constituted authority which results in all kinds of ungodly living. (Chap. 2: 10) Third error. Denying and holding up to ridicule the precious truth of the coming of the Lord, the Christian's living hope. (Chap. 3: 1-7).
We might well ask, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11: 3) But thank God, His Word is like Himself, unchangeable, unmovable. It is forever settled in Heaven (Ps. 119: 89) and our safety is assured us just in the measure we give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard. If we don't, we will drift away. (Heb. 2: 1-2. R.V.)
Part II. FIRST ERROR. False teachers bringing in damnable heresies. In 1 John 2: 18 R.V., we are told that even now are there many antichrists whereby we know it is the last hour. We used to be shocked when we read what Ingersoll, Voltaire, and other blatant infidels said about God, His Son and the truths of His Word, but now pulpits are teeming with men in the clerical garb and theological seminaries are loaded with professors, who teach "damnable heresies." They deny the inspiration of the Word of God. They deny the truth of the incarnation of the Son of God. They deny His sacrificial work. They deny that Jesus was raised from the dead. They deny His ascension and His coming again. In short, the Bible is to them a book of myths, a relic of the Dark Ages.
Not long ago in a railway train, a man in clerical uniform, seeing me reading my Bible, came to me and said, "I see you are a minister," I told him, "It is a case of mistaken identity. I lay no claim to officialism." But said he, "I am a minister." Then I asked, "What do you tell the people? His reply was, "I tell them about the Christ, the wonderful life He lived, and the high ideals He has left us to seek to attain unto."
I then asked him, "Do you ever tell the people they are sinners and that they need to be born again?" This brought him out in his true colors, for he was one of those described in II Peter 2: 1-3, a false teacher with damnable heresies. I had to tell him he belonged to that class, that I could not shake hands with him, and could not give him any greeting. (II John 10 R.V.) Oh, give heed to the solemn warning, and beware of the error of the lawless in the matter of doctrine.
SECOND ERROR. Speaking evil of dignities and despising government. (II Pet. 2: 10). In the political world, anarchy and tumult abound. How descriptive of conditions even now, are the words of the Lord Jesus, "Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity. The sea and the waves roaring, men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth." (Luke 21: 25; Isa. 57: 20; Rev. 31: 1; 21: 1). Lack of stable government is seen everywhere. Respect for constituted authority is fast disappearing. The spirit manifested by a man I conversed with lately, pretty well describes the general condition. We were discussing a certain matter and trying so far as I was concerned, to arrive at an amiable conclusion, when he suddenly terminated the conversation by saying, "It is me first and you next."
In the days of the Judges, "There was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes." The world today  is organizing into the two great camps of Fascism and Communism. If we, who are the Lord's, do not grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We lay ourselves open to becoming possessed with the spirit of rebellion which is manifested in the attitude described in Ps. 12. 4, "With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?" It will be manifested in the assembly by insubordination to the elders who watch for our souls (Heb. 13: 17). On the other hand, subjection to Christ as Lord will be manifested by bowing to His Word and subjecting ourselves to His will as revealed there.
THIRD ERROR. Scoffers saying, where is the promise of His coming? (II Pet. 3: 3-5). Until recent years, the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord, was a power, purifying the lives of the children of God; today the religious world has commercialized it, and the infidel world is making a mockery of it.
Within the last quarter of a century, there have sprung up all kinds of cults which make a hobby of capitalizing on the coming of the Lord. Some have set dates, only to have their folly exposed, and also to cause the enemies of God to blaspheme. Another class do not discriminate between His coming for His saints (I Thess. 4: 13, 18) and His coming with His saints (II Thess. 1: 6-12). His coming for His saints is followed by woe after woe upon the earth. His coming later with His saints is to destroy His enemies, to set up His kingdom, and usher in a time of peace and blessing upon the whole earth. Many have their minds so engrossed in material benefits that they preach the coming of Christ to improve conditions on the earth. "They promise liberty to their hearers and with feigned words, they make merchandise of the people” (II Pet. 2: 3, 19). Then again, there are mockers who say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (Chap. 3: 4). They are increasing rapidly in number. They include the openly ungodly infidels, and the infidel clergymen in pulpits.
I once lived beside a godly old couple who were members of a certain religious organization that was once fundamentally sound. As we opened up the truth of the Word of God about the coming of the Lord (a truth they said they had never heard before) they were so filled with joy that tears coursed down their cheeks. One day, while we were having a Bible reading on this subject in their home, the man who claimed to be their pastor came in. When he saw us with our Bibles, I told him, "We are reading about the coming of the Lord." He looked at me as black as a thundercloud and scornfully said, "The coming of the Lord! He is here now!''
The world scoffs at His coming, and we need to give heed to the warning, lest we be led away by the error of the lawless and thus fall from our own steadfastness, (II Pet. 3: 17). The danger then would be to become possessed with the spirit of the wicked servant who says, "My Lord delayeth His coming'' (Matt. 24: 48) instead of being like the Lord's people in the early history of the church, who were watching and waiting for their Lord. (I Thess. 1: 10; 5: 6)
Part III. In connection with the warning, "Beware, lest ye also being led away by the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness,'' Let us say that God never warns of a danger, without pointing out the way of deliverance from the evil to which we are exposed. And in this case, He clearly does so in the first chapter.
The old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is expressively true in a solemn matter of this kind. In the first chapter of the epistle, we have the preventive which if given heed to, we shall never fall.
After the introductory part of the epistle, contained in verses 1 and 2, we are informed in verse 3, that “His divine power hath given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue." So, in the light of this, we are well equipped. There is no excuse for falling. We have the Lord Jesus, our great high priest, living to maintain us in our life and testimony. (Heb. 7 :25). We have the Holy Spirit to make intercession for us. (Rom. 8: 26-28) We have God for us. (Rom. 8: 31-32) and He has given unto us His Word (John 17: 14) in which are contained "exceeding great and precious promises.'' We will be thus strengthened as we are in this way, "partakers of the divine nature," and as a result, we will "escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.'' (II Pet. 1: 4).
In this way, the house of David (that which is after the Spirit) will wax stronger, and the house of Saul (that which is after the flesh) wax weaker and weaker (II Sam. 3: 1). "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." (Gal. 5: 16).
Faith in Christ, who by the shedding of His blood, provided a righteous basis upon which God could justify us, is the subject of II Peter 1: 1. Beginning at verse 5 he says, "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue (courage) and to virtue, knowledge and to knowledge, temperance and to temperance, patience, and to patience, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love."
Take special note of this; for while in verses 1 to 5, he has been bringing before us, God's provision for us; in verse 5 to 7, he presses upon us our responsibility which if we do not give heed to, will result in our falling, the thing which he is concerned about, for in chap. 1: 9 we read, "But he that lacketh these things is blind (shortsighted) and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
This shortsightedness will be in evidence in people who, when first saved, were able to say very truthfully, "For me to live is Christ," but are now saying (concerning things which when first saved they would shun) "What is the harm in it?" This is a sure mark of heart departure from the Lord. "A backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways (Prov. 14: 14). The old things that characterized the life in unconverted days will again appear, and when a child of God has a break down as to moral evil, the door is open for him to become a victim of spiritual evil. Next will be seen the spirit of disrespect for and insubordination to those who care for their souls (Heb. 13: 17; II Pet. 2: 10) leading to the last stage, scoffing at the coming of the Lord. (II Pet. 2: 4-5). What a terrible fail! almost inconceivable and unbelievable, and yet the Word of God warns about it. And we have seen cases of those who were once bright Christians, in later years fall because they did not give heed to the warning "beware.”
Thank God, however we have seen many children of God heed the warning and carry out in their lives the exhortation of II Pet. 1: 4-8, to make their calling and election sure and as a result, they have not fallen. "If ye do these things ye shall never fall" and when the Lord Jesus comes, such will have an abundant entrance. (II Pet. 3: 10-11). Jude, in his epistle, describes and warns of the same dangers and in view of them says, "But ye beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20-21) and concludes with the triumphant soul-thrilling note, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
“Assembly Annals” 1938