“And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.”
2 Peter 3:15-16 NLT
It is truly astounding the way rich Bible truths are anchored at the “3:16” point in nearly every New Testament book. This post continues my long exploration of the Three Sixteens. Today we are looking at the salvation which comes to us through the Lord’s patience, as described in Paul’s teachings. (If you missed the earlier posts, go back to the start and check them out: Matthew 3:16 through to 1 Peter 3:16.)
To understand the significance of these words, it is worth understanding the patience that Peter is referring back to (in verse 9):
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. This actually a response to the criticism mentioned in verses 3-4:
I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?
So what did happen to that promise? More than ever, the idea that Jesus would come and end all the pain and suffering of this Covid world is attractive. We who hope in Christ and the resurrection would probably welcome his return today! But unlike God, we are each so wrapped up in our own interests. The reason for the Lord’s delay is the salvation of souls.
With each day that passes, new believers are made, new children are born to the Kingdom of God. How gracious is the delay of this promise! God’s purposes in calling people to himself are not thwarted by the criticism that Jesus’ return should come right now. For the sake of mortal men and women, our loving heavenly Father is patient. And though he stands outside of time, we can be thankful for the passing moments from where we sit, and wait. More people are coming to put their trust in Him!
Verse 15 leads into 16, where Peter makes the interesting connection between Paul’s teachings and the rest of Scripture – giving weight to Paul’s letters and thereby declaring that they too are indeed God-breathed. Peter’s verse 15 agrees with Paul who wrote in Romans 2:4: “Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Peter’s agreement with Paul is significant in that it sets the apostles’ teaching apart from that of false teachers, who denied the Second Coming of Christ.
As for Peter’s comment that some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand”, I don’t think he is being critical. Rather, the opposite. He wants us to see the truth in Paul’s hard teachings. Just as Jesus spoke in parables – so that we might seek the meaning and exercise faith to understand the truth – so Paul’s teachings call on us to think!
John Piper offers this comment in a sermon on the passage:
” . . . even though Scripture is inspired, it is not all easy to understand. Verse 16: “There are some things in them hard to understand.” I would love to preach an hour on the implications of that sentence; but since I don’t have time, here is an outline of that sermon.
Point 1: Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind of God.
Point 2: The mind of God is vastly greater than our mind and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple.
Point 3: Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand.
Point 4: The continued selection only of what is simple in the Bible would be a sin in the regular preaching of the church, because Hebrews 5:13 says, “Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a child.”
Point 5: Therefore, preaching which aims to deliver the whole counsel of God in Scripture (and which does not presume to be wiser than the apostles) will sometimes be complex and will demand from God’s people the utmost in humility and mental effort.”
Praise be to our great God – who has revealed himself to us and patiently waits for more to be gathered into the kingdom of His Son.
Here is a song to finish with, reminding us of God’s Mercies which are new every morning. (Recorded by Matt Redman – Thy Kingdom Come Event | London, UK)