Be Watchful of Your Doctrine

A meditation on 2 Peter 3:17


"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."

We need to be warned of the danger of false teaching and its natural outcome, that is, greed and immorality. It is true that the Scripture is quite clear when it comes to many teachings. Salvation or redemption from sin, for example, is clear from the Bible that it is from God alone, by His grace alone and to be received only by faith in Christ alone. Salvation is not by faith plus our good works. Rather the Scripture teaches that salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, results in holy living and produces good works in the lives of those who are saved.

However, there are portions of Scripture that are not easy to interpret. Peter admits that some of Paul's letters contain some things that are hard to understand. These hard-to-understand writings of Paul and other hard passages of the Scripture are being used by these false teachers inside the church to teach strange and esoteric doctrines. These false teachers are twisting the Scripture to deceive many and to earn personal gains (v.16).

Peter is aware of such false teachers operating in the church. That's why he's telling his fellow believers, and he tells us today, to be watchful or else we be carried away by the error of these unprincipled men. By the way, Peter calls them untaught and unstable people who distort the Scriptures (v.16b). Thus he's warning us to be on our guard of our doctrine and to be aware of people who teach erroneous doctrines.

In chapter 2, Peter describes the nature of these deceivers (vv.1-2, 10-12, 13b-19). Then in 2:3b, 4-9, 13a, he warns his readers of the danger and destruction awaiting those people and those who follow them. They will be punished and destroyed by God at the proper time, the same way God punished the ungodly in the time of Noah and Lot (2:4-10a). The apostle is giving us a strong warning here. So we have to take his warning seriously.

If you claim you have received the grace of God in salvation you ought to have a godly lifestyle now, different from your careless and unproductive lifestyle in the past. Or, at least, some noticeable changes in your thinking pattern and behavior must have taken place. It doesn't mean, of course, that you are thoroughly perfect and everything is doing well in your life now. No, that's not what is meant here. In other words, as a professing believer of Jesus Christ, have you seen some growth in your life in terms of your interest in knowing God through the Bible? Or have you noticed a growing desire to obey God and a constant striving to resist sin and temptation in your life?

These are signs of growth in the grace and in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, to grow in the grace of God is also to grow in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus. Peter makes this very clear in 1:2. We can notice there that God's grace and peace are multiplied in or through the knowledge of God. To know God is the means by which His grace and peace grow and become powerful in our lives.

If you want to enjoy God's perfect peace and His amazing grace, your knowledge of Him has to grow. As one famous preacher says, “Grace is not a mere deposit. It is a power that leads to godliness and eternal life [1:3]. And where the knowledge of the glory and excellence of God cannot be found, grace does not flow. The channel from God's infinite reservoir of grace into and through our lives is the knowledge of God.” This knowledge of God comes to us, of course, through our Lord Jesus Christ as the Spirit opens the Word to us.

Young boys and girls and dear young people, you need to listen, you need to learn the doctrines of our faith before you can take them to heart. And what's the best way to have the knowledge of God but to continually avail of God's appointed means of grace, that is, the preaching of the gospel of Christ and the sacraments. Bible study and meditation, as well as prayer, are also means by which God reveals Himself to us and increases our faith in Him. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Do not underestimate the transforming power of God in gospel-preaching. Likewise, do not forsake the things that you've learned from the Bible which your parents or Sunday school or catechism teachers have taught you. Continue to live by them and diligently seek opportunities to share those precious gospel truths to others.

Parents, don't give up. Train your children in the way of God's covenant. Remind them of God's promise to them which was signified and sealed in their baptism. Challenge them to live by faith and to grow in the knowledge of their blessed Savior Jesus Christ.

So together, let us be faithful in the study of God’s Word – in preaching and teaching, and in upholding one another in prayer, asking God to cause us to grow in His grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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