2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
When I was much younger, I was taught things in the Scriptures a certain way, and I believed what I was taught. But, as I got older, and I began to study the Scriptures for myself, I began to realize that some things I was taught early on did not add up to what I was reading in the Scriptures.
So, I found that I was having a difficult time reconciling what I was taught with what the Scriptures appeared to be teaching. And I was not one who was satisfied with “We’ve always done it this way,” or “Don’t worry about that, dearie. Just believe what we tell you.”
I had seen far too much hypocrisy as I was growing up, and I wanted no part of it. I wanted the real thing. I wanted to know the truth, not what someone was telling me was the truth. So, I continued in my search to know the truth. And the Lord opened my eyes to much truth, too.
So, if what we were taught early on was that we could pray a prayer to receive Christ and that now eternal life with God was guaranteed us, and that nothing could take that away from us, no matter what, then how do we reconcile that with these teachings in the Scriptures that teach that how we live on this earth matters for where we spend eternity?
This will become clearer as we read further on in 2 Peter 3, but why tell the believers in Jesus that, because the world is going to be one day destroyed, they ought to be people who are living their lives in holiness and godliness while they are waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord? What is the correlation between holy and godly living and Jesus’ return?
2 Peter 3:14-16 ESV
“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
Again, if we are saved (once), heaven is guaranteed us when we die, and nothing can take that away from us, then why all the pressure to make certain the believers would be found by our Lord without spot or blemish and at peace? And if we already have salvation, then why do we need to count the patience of our Lord as salvation?
Ah, now we can get to the bottom of this. The key to this mystery is found in the writings of Paul, but not in his teachings which are easy to understand, but in the ones that are hard to understand and that the ignorant and unstable twist to their destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. Now we are getting somewhere.
So, what did Paul have to say on this matter? Well, he said that we have to walk (conduct our lives, in practice) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. For, if we live by the flesh, we will die in our sins. We will not inherit eternal life with God no matter what (Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-21).
He also taught that we are slaves of the one we obey. If it is sin, it leads to death. But if it is obedience, that leads to righteousness and sanctification, and that ends in eternal life with God. For, to be in Christ means we have died with Christ to sin and we are living to Christ and to his righteousness (Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24; Tit 2:11-14; Rom 12:1-2).
Paul also taught that we will reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. And he taught that we will be judged of God by our works (Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10).
So, Paul didn’t teach “once saved always saved.” He taught a salvation that was contingent upon how we live. Now he didn’t teach that we can earn our own salvation by our own good works, but he did teach that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God had planned ahead of time that we should walk in them (Eph 2:8-10).
2 Peter 3:17-18 ESV
“You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Again, if we are saved once, and heaven is guaranteed us when we die, and nothing can take that away from us, then why teach that we should be careful that not one of us is carried away (led astray) by/with the error of lawless people and thus we lose our stability (steadfastness, firmness)?
Now, one could argue that this is merely talking about drifting from our pure devotion to Christ and therefore losing our steadfastness of spirit in our walks of faith. And, thus, this is an encouragement to guard against such as this. But this refers back to the previous section here which refers specifically to Paul’s hard to understand teachings.
Also, remember what Paul said about himself.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Co 9:24-27; cf. Gal 6:7-8).
Love Lifted Me
Hymn lyrics by James Rowe, 1912
Music by Howard E. Smith
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!