2 Peter 3:15-16, “15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
In his concluding words, Peter urges his readers to count the patience of the Lord as salvation. From our perspective, God’s work may seem slow (2 Peter 3:9), but this is the patience of God. God’s patience should be counted as salvation. Counted is the way we need to think about our perception of God’s slowness. Because God is patient more people can repent, turn to God, and place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The second coming of Christ might seem to be coming slowly, but the purpose is that more people might come to Jesus so that more people might be saved.
Interestingly Peter brings Paul into his letter. The original readers of 2 Peter received other letters from Paul. Paul wrote to them the same truth Peter reminds them of. In Romans, Paul mentions the patience or forbearance of God three times.
- Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
- Romans 3:25-26, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
- Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”
Paul wrote this “according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.”
Peter brings Paul into the conclusion because the false teachers took the words of Paul about our freedom in Christ and turned them into licentiousness (2 Peter 2:2). Peter wants his readers to know that Paul is on the side of the Apostles and they agree with one another and aren’t twisting his words.
I find comfort in Peters next words. “There are some things in them (Paul’s letters) that are hard to understand.” Yes, Peter, there are. Romans is one of, if not the most, theologically rich and deep book of the Bible. Trying to read it in your own strength, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, will lead you to the conclusion that there are many hard things to understand. We must think hard with the aid of the Holy Spirit to understand such rich spiritual truth. Without His help, we can do nothing.
The ignorant and unstable twist the letters of Paul as they do with the other Scriptures. To the false teachers, unholy living was seen not only in the way they lived but also in how they handled the Word of God. Peter declares that they twist Paul’s letters as they do the other Scriptures. Peter shows the recognition of Paul’s letters as being on the same plane as the other Scriptures, the Old Testament. Paul’s words were considered Scripture. This should give us confidence in the New Testament writings for they are breathed out by God. We have Apostolic and Scriptural evidence for that from Peter.
Here are two implications for us today.
We too should count the patience of the Lord as salvation. It is tempting to say that we live in the worst of times. Our American culture has devolved so quickly into grotesque sin it is tempting to say there is no hope or to question why God is slow in sending Jesus to come again. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world are losing their lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Why is God being slow? Peter would encourage us that what we count as God’s slowness is His patience. God desires many more people to come to know Him in what appears to be the darkest of times. Evil times are not a hindrance to the gospel but in many cases are the soil in which the spread of the gospel flourishes.
Another implication is to pay attention to what our handling of Scripture says about our lives. The false teachers Peter combats lived morally filthy and unholy lives. In these concluding words, he gives another evidence they live this way, their handling of Scripture. They twist it. They distort it. They treat it like a wax statue that they can fashion however they see fit. We must keep a close watch on our life and doctrine. We often think that bad theology leads to immoral living, and in some cases, this is true. But I wonder if it isn’t more of the case, as Peter outlines, that immoral living leads to bad theology. The way we live matters and has an impact on every part of our lives, including how we handle the Word of God.
May the Holy Spirit help us see our circumstances through the lens of God’s patience. And, may He also enable us to live holy lives before His face evidenced by righteous character and a reverence for the Word of God.