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So that we don’t destroy ourselves

The apostle Peter was a man who learnt to be humble. Jesus had said cool things about him when he showed that he was able to recognize Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God (Mt 16:16-19). But then he got proud and tried to prevent Jesus from going to the cross and Jesus strongly rebuked him (Mt 16:20-23). What a deflation that must have been!

But Peter didn’t take offense. In Jn 6:68-69, when Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to go away it was Peter who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."

Much later, when Paul openly rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14) Peter humbly listened to Paul even though Paul was a junior apostle. He listened because he realized that Paul was correct and he was wrong. Not only that – Peter even wrote good things about Paul in his second letter (2 Pet 3:15-17). It was such an attitude that helped Peter get sound doctrine and kept Peter from being destroyed.

2 Pe 3:15-17 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

Peter learnt something important and he wrote 2 Pe 3:15-17 so that we could learn from his experience. This is what he learnt:

Those who are untaught (by the Holy Spirit) and unstable (because of their lack of principle) cannot understand the Scriptures, and end up distorting the Scriptures. The end result is that they are destroyed. We see then that if we do not understand the Scriptures but think we do then we are liable to be destroyed. Therefore, it is very important to understand the Scriptures properly.

Some parts of Scripture are hard to understand. There is a great temptation to try and explain those ‘hard to understand’ Scriptures even though we are not given the wisdom to do so. If the Holy Spirit has not taught us what those Scriptures mean it is best to be humble and acknowledge that, and not offer an explanation. If instead we lack principle and apply human understanding to explain Scripture then we end up distorting those hard to understand Scriptures. And then, in order to make everything else consistent with our first distortion we can end up distorting the rest of Scripture, finally leading to our destruction.

There are people who have gone this way. Peter reminds us that we are to be on guard against them. If we don’t guard ourselves against them then we too will be carried away by their error and fall from our own steadfastness.

Paul said this in a slightly different way.

1 Tm 4:1-3 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.

1 Tm 4:1-3 tells us that it is possible to fall away from the faith by paying attention to false doctrine. That is the extent to which a false doctrine can affect you and me.

No wonder Satan has done his best to spread false doctrine! His first line of attack is to prevent us from getting saved. If we do manage to get saved, his second line of attack is to get us into a church that teaches false doctrine. In doing so he not only renders us useless for Christian work, but also causes us to fall away from the faith. Not only that, he gets us to teach others our false doctrine so that they too will fall away from the faith. That is the extent of the destruction due to false doctrine.

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