Meditations in 2 Peter : 32: Establishing Scriptures
2 Pet 3: 15,16 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
The marvel of the Bible – and something I suspect that we take for granted – is that it comprises 66 books with a lot of writers. Sometimes we don’t know who those writers are but that makes even more amazing the unity that is found in Scripture. Critics focus on unclear passages of Scripture or where harmony takes a while to find, but the truth is that there is staggering unity in the Bible. The Old Testament flows like a history book and if you knew nothing of its origins you might think it was written by one person, even though they vary the style from time to time. Yes there is an historical gap of some four hundred years between Old and New Testaments, but the flow is still about a little country in what we call the Middle East, and the amazing things that went on in it. The more you read the Bible you more you come to see this unity. God is NOT portrayed in a variety of ways; He is there in the background the whole time and again and again He reiterates His love for His world.
As Peter draws near the end of this letter and particularly his argument to persuade believers to live holy lives, he appeals to the writing of the apostle Paul. In many ways Peter and Paul stand as the two human giants in the New Testament. They were both Jews but they had very different backgrounds. They both responded to Jesus’ call but Peter was largely called to the Jews while Paul was largely called to the Gentiles.
Peter’s finishing point to his own argument is “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.” That was the conclusion to what he had been saying: be patient, be faithful, hold to the truth and live holy lives and realise, as we have now noted a number of times, that every day the Lord delays in coming back means a further opportunity for people to be saved. Then he adds, presumably as a means of adding authority to what he has been saying, “just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you.” Do you see that – “just as” – i.e. in the same way as Paul has been teaching.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul had spoken of Jesus’ return (1 Thess 4:13-) Moving into chapter 5 he had written, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:1,2) and then a bit later “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled…. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” ( Thess 5:6,8)
So there we find exactly the same teaching that Peter has been bringing – Jesus will return, so be prepared and remain faithful and true. Peter upholds Paul’s writing in a remarkable way. He confirms it is in line with his own teaching, but he also adds that he recognizes that Paul’s writing came “with the wisdom that God gave him.” But even more than that, he puts Paul’s writings alongside “the other Scriptures.” Peter recognizes that hand of God on Paul’s writings which declare it revelation equivalent to that of the Old Testament. That is quite a remarkable attestation.
But Peter is an honest pastor: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Look, he seems to be saying, he’s a bit of an intellect and so sometimes the things he writes need some thinking about; they are not always that easy to take in – BUT that doesn’t make them any the less the wisdom and inspiration of God!
There is a simple challenge here that comes out of this: if Scripture isn’t always clear and easy to understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not from God. You just have to take more time thinking and praying over it to see what God would say to you through it. If you haven’t seen the unity we’ve referred to, then read and read and read the Bible and you soon will. If you stumble over passages, pause up and ask the Lord to help you understand it. In fact, the wise always pray before they read the Bible because it is a spiritual book and needs help of the Holy Spirit sometimes to understand. Ask Him for that help!