A Word on 2 Peter 3:17-18

2 Peter 3:17‑18  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
There are no epistles that show us in a more distinct and serious manner the danger of practically dishonoring the Lord, or of going back, than we find here and in the Epistle of Jude, unless it be Hebrews for the latter. And I believe there are none so exposed to that danger as those who take the ground of Christ. I do not mean that therefore any who are really born of God will ever forfeit His grace. But departure from the Lord may be allowed as a distinct chastening, as far as it goes, of our carelessness and lack of dependence.
I grant you that, in any case, the righteous with difficulty are saved. Everything is against them but God. He, however, is for them; and “if God be for us, who can be against us?” Still, on every side the difficulty is such that God alone can surmount it. Notwithstanding it is a difficulty that God does surmount, without in any way lessening it, in order to exercise our faith and patience. If He did, He would detract from His own glory, and He would diminish the proofs of His grace to us, of His intimately watchful care, and, finally, of His sure prevailing over all His and our foes. Now it is God that undertakes to bring every Christian through. But this does not at all hinder either the difficulty, on the one hand, which God only is equal to, nor, on the other, the danger of slips by the way, even though deliverance and restorative grace triumph in the end.
But there is another thing. All that are not of God, but who take such a place, will infallibly become much worse than if they had never taken it. This is what we find so solemnly in Jude and Peter. There is no place in the New Testament where we find such a fearful character given. In both cases they were persons who had taken the stand of Christians, and a bad Christian is worse than an ordinary worldly man. Nor do I now confine myself in so speaking to a merely professing Christian. For when even a real Christian gets into a bad state, he will do and say things more unkind and more contrary to all that is becoming and right than any other man. It is the same flesh, whether it be in the Christian or in the non-Christian. The fallen nature of man is the same in all. The difference between the Christian and the unconverted man is not that the flesh is better in the one than in the other, but that the Christian has, with a new nature and the Spirit, One on high to guard and strengthen him against the flesh. But if there be anything allowed to hinder the Holy Ghost's working in him, the flesh shows itself.
What strikes me as so all-important for us to ponder over, is, that these same, epistles which show us the danger of declining and of decay, or of complete apostasy, on the part of those who bear the name of Christ, are encouraging and urgent, more than any other epistles, for the growth of the Christian. Can you tell me any place where you find it asserted in the same manner as in these two epistles? In the verses just now read we find it thus: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye knew these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” Instead of that, instead of merely yielding their ground, or going back from what they began with, they are cheered to go on, growing in grace.
No matter how much one may have seen the grace of God in the first coming to the knowledge of Christ, this should not, and does not, satisfy our soul, still less the Master. It is well if grace has wrought a good beginning, but Gal. 3:8; 5:78And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Galatians 3:8)
7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Galatians 5:7)
warns not to rest there. It is of all moment to be also going forward in the ways of God. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and [not simply forever, but] to the day of eternity. Amen.” Peter puts in view the day of eternity, with the new heavens and new earth, where everything that can be broken is gone.
Jude, in the same way, says, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith.” This is the only place in the New Testament where our faith is called “most holy.” Why so? Because the chapter is speaking of the most unholy sapping and mining at the time of the end. Instead of the Christian contenting himself, and saying, It is a day of ruin and evil, and therefore it is vain to swim against the current, there is the very reverse. It is a time for being specially guarded, not for allowing any distrust of God's grace, and goodness, and love, on the one hand, but neither is it for allowing any negligence as to His holiness and truth on our part. “Ye, beloved, building up yourselves on 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.”
Thus may we see what the Lord undoubtedly lays on us for this present time more than has ever been. Therefore does it become increasingly necessary, as we go on, and the departure becomes more evident, that we look well to the Lord, while cherishing His grace, to be making progress in the knowledge of Himself. I am sure that where we are shut out necessarily by stern duty from opportunities of hearing much truth, the Lord always makes up for it; but it becomes us to see, in the love of one another, and as being earnest for the glory of the Lord Jesus, how far we show that we are not mere men of the earth belonging to this age, with the calls and occupations of present duties, but that we give practical proof, day by day, that we belong to Christ for eternity, decided and resolute in meeting the departure of Christendom by growth in grace in our own souls.