Meditations in 2 Peter : 33: Be on your Guard
2 Pet 3:17,18 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Twice in his first letter and now four times in his second letter, Peter calls his readers, “dear friends.” (3:1,8,14,17) He comes with a gentle concern for his readers, coming as a pastor and not an overlord. His language appeals for familiarity, and in that familiarity he hopes to persuade them by this gentle friendship. How often would we persuade people by gentleness rather than forceful argument!
In a second way he also appeals to them: “since you already know this.” Earlier in the letter he had said the same sort of thing: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” (1:12). We like being told we know something; it makes us feel good about ourselves – especially when it is true. What now is the ‘this’ he has just referred to? It must be the fact of critics, sceptics and doubters in the world who deny the Lord’s coming again, men who hold such a position, not because they have intellectual doubts, but because it is more convenient to hold it, allowing them to live godless and unrighteous lives without having to answer to a Supreme Being, and thus denying the truth.
How are we to deal with such people? “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away.” This means be aware of them – as you are – and don’t lose sight of what they are, and so resist the efforts of the enemy through them to change your thinking to be like theirs, and thus get carried away into unrighteousness like that have been. These people are in error and as a result they are lawless and have no respect for God’s laws and deny he is the designer of the world and therefore knows best about how to live.
His fear is that they might “fall from your secure position.” I have the picture of a boat being moored. It is tied firmly to the dock or to a buoy. What is this secure position? It is being tied to the truth, living in Christ and blessed of God. It is the same sort of idea that Paul was conveying to the Ephesians when he said, “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then.” (Eph 6:13,14) He told them to stand their ground. The picture there is that, as Christians, we have inherited a piece of ground and all we have to do is hold on to it and not allow the enemy to scare us off it, or deceive us off it. What is this ‘ground’? It is a place of truth, living in Christ and receiving the blessings of God. Both Peter and Paul say the same thing to us: be careful to hold on to what you have received – the truth that Peter spoke about earlier in his letter, first heard through the prophets in the Old Testament period, then fulfilled in Christ and now attested to by the apostles. As we have received that so we have been adopted by God and been given forgiveness and His own Holy Spirit. Hold on to all this is the message!
But, we might say, that is all negative. It is right that we don’t fall away from what we have received but there is also a positive side to come. Don’t just keep looking over your should to ward off the lies of the enemy. No, there is a more positive approach to live that we are to adopt: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The Christian life is all about change, about growing up, about coming into maturity. Grace, we have said, is the resource of God Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit, being all we need to live out our life as God’s children. Thus we are to grow in the experience of knowing His provision in and through us; we are to grow in the experience of learning to receive from Him and use what He gives us. This is what grace is all about. But is not an impersonal thing, for our calling is to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, hence, growing in the “knowledge of our Lord”. In the language above we said, “knowing His provision” and “receive from Him.” There is a growth in this knowledge as we realise more and more that everything we have that is good, has come from Him. As we live out our lives daily as His children, the relationship is expressed as we turn to Him, know Him, and receive from Him.
So our life isn’t merely to be defensive, it is to be positive as we grow in these things. Yes, we must ward off the lies of the enemy and his deception, we must be aware of it and take steps to resist them, but it is all about growing “in God”. That is what this letter is all about. May it be the experience of each of us.