Wednesday, August 25, 2010

God’s Patience – 2 Peter 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. (NIV)

Back in verse 9 we briefly discussed God’s patience which allows more people to be saved. Here, Peter pulls Paul’s writings into context. Paul relates some other aspects of God’s character in relation to His patience and they also relate to salvation. Rom 2:4 Or 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? (RSV) God’s patience is related to His kindness and forbearance or tolerance. His tolerance isn’t the politically correct tolerance of the world, but His tolerance is the kind that puts up with something for a while. God puts up with sinful man not to approve of his actions but to give us a chance to repent.

Paul spoke of God’s patience for himself. 1 Tim 1:16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (NIV) Paul persecuted the church by imprisoning and delivering believers over to execution. You would think that if God were going to destroy anyone, it would have been Paul. However, God had mercy and patience with Paul.

Many Christians today are living ungodly lives. They are living together without marriage. They are idolatrous in the way they handle their finances. They expect political solutions to spiritual problems. They put anything and everything ahead of God in their lives. Many believe that because they are able to keep up the prosperous life, that God is OK with their lives. However, the truth is that God is patient with us. He is giving us time to repent. The warning for salvation isn’t just for those who don’t believe. It is also for believers who are blaspheming the name of Jesus by their lifestyle. He will not always tolerate our way of life.

This isn’t anything new. Though history, God’s people have distorted His word to suit their own purposes. Jer 22:13-17 "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. He says, 'I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms. 'So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. "Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord. "But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion." (NIV) This is a warning to people of all nations, believers and unbelievers alike. Oppression and extortion can take many forms. It can be as simple as not sharing with others in need, taking advantage of illegal aliens or blatant slavery. It can be looking for legal loopholes to do unethical business practices. What about those houses? I’m sure the rich have every right to build million dollar mansions, but do they do that to the exclusion of sharing their wealth?

An interesting aspect of this passage is Peter’s reference to Paul’s writing. If there is ever any question about the authority of Paul’s writing and his apostleship, this should clear it up. Peter affirms Paul as a dear brother. This is in spite of the fact that Paul had to call Peter to account for his unbiblical behavior. Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (NIV) The next thing is that Peter affirms that what Paul wrote was through the wisdom God gave him. The third thing is that Peter equates Paul’s writing with Scripture. Up until this time, the only writing that was held in this high esteem was what we would now call the Old Testament – or the Jewish Bible. Even though Paul was not counted with the original Apostles, Peter recognized that God had used him to teach us through his writings. Paul’s letters are now universally accepted as God’s Word.

Peter also affirms that Paul’s writing isn’t always easy to understand. However, difficulty in understanding doesn’t give anyone an excuse to distort what he wrote. The warning against this is clear. Anyone who distorts the Bible will bring destruction upon themselves. I have to be careful what I say when I talk or write about the Bible. Each preacher needs to be careful. Any application of Scripture to everyday life must be correct, leading to righteousness, holiness, salvation, kindness, perseverance, all the fruit of the Spirit. Using any Scripture to justify ungodly behavior will only result in heartache, sin, and possible destruction. Don’t be ignorant and unstable.

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