Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV).
Paul opposed and exposed the error false teachers spread against the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Gal. 1:6-12; 2:4-5). Unwilling and unable to withstand the truth Paul spoke, these “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” resorted to ad hominem arguments to blunt the force of the Spirit’s sword (2 Cor. 11:13). They attacked Paul instead of the truth he preached. We can hear their accusations against Paul as they tried to diminish his effective teaching and influence among the Corinthians. “Paul is bold in his letters but weak when in your presence” (2 Cor. 10:1-2, 10). And, “Paul is a former persecutor who never was with Jesus. He is an upstart unqualified to be an apostle – do not listen to him” (2 Cor. 11:5-6). They tried to gaslight the brethren, projecting onto Paul what they were doing as they “walked according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:2-3). This diversionary tactic is used when false doctrines are indefensible from the Scriptures. “Fool!” “Ignorant!” and “Pharisee!” are among the ad hominem responses against Christians who oppose and expose sin and error from God’s word. The Lord’s servant does not resort to ad hominem to bias his audience. It is a ploy unworthy of Christ’s disciple (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Reacting against reasoned biblical teaching with ad hominem responses diverts attention from the word of God. It is a carnal attack that fails to persuade while exposing the weakness and error of the one using it (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Do not be deceived.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2–3, NKJV)
Christ’s apostle boldly described those who perverted the gospel (i.e., false brethren) by demanding Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved; They were false brethren (Acts 15:5; Gal. 2:4-5; 5:4). For emphasis, Paul gave one warning three times. (1) Beware of dogs (v. 2). Feral dogs lived in packs, scavenging for food (Ps. 59:6; 1 Kings 14:11). We must be alert against false teachers who attack and consume souls (Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 4). (2) Beware of evil workers (v. 2). Their works are wicked; Do not give them quarter (Ps. 119:115; Phil. 2:18-19). (3) Beware of the mutilation (v. 2). The doctrine of binding circumcision for salvation did nothing to remove sin because it was only a physical incision. By contrast, Christians (whether Jews or Gentiles) are “the circumcision” (the covenant people of God, whose hearts are circumcised, Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13). Next, Paul gave three counterbalancing descriptions of Christians. (1) Christians worship God in the Spirit (v. 3). The word “worship” denotes service to God. We serve God according to the truth that the Spirit revealed, not by the error of the “dogs” (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:5-6). (2) Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus (v. 3). We have joy in Christ and do not take pleasure in evil things (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; Rom. 12:15). (3) Christians have no confidence in the flesh (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ does not depend on physical pedigree, performance, and promotion. Paul refused to trust in such things (Phil. 3:4-7). Brethren, be alert to error and those who teach it. Serve God with the confidence of the truth of the gospel.
1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:1–2, NKJV).
We need reminders. Calendars help us remember the day and its events. From a string around the finger, post-it notes, or an alarm clock, we need help remembering important events. God knows this, too. He inspired Peter and others to write letters that stimulate our understanding and remind us of the will of God. We “gird up the loins of (our) minds” as we remember the truth we know and in which we are established (1 Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 1:12-13). We must not forget the words spoken by the holy prophets. Their words were from God (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We must remember the commands of the apostles of Christ because they constitute the Savior’s will (1 Cor. 14:37). The pure (sincere) mind knows and remembers the inspired words from God. By learning and being grounded in the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles of Christ, we are equipped to (1) Identify and avoid false doctrine (2 Pet. 3:3-9), (2) Look forward to the day of the Lord in holiness and hope (2 Pet. 3:10-14), (3) Consider God’s longsuffering as securing our salvation, not abandoning us to the world (2 Pet. 3:15, 9, 3-4), (4) Handle God’s word properly to avoid falling into destruction (2 Pet. 3:16-17), and (5) Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). The Scriptures stir up fervent faith as we remember them. Let us not forget God’s word nor scoff at its truth (2 Pet. 3:3-5).
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen (2 Peter 3:17–18, NKJV).
It is essential to see the interdependent relationship between grace and knowledge in today’s passage. Peter’s summary draws attention to the truth his audience already knew (“since you know this beforehand,” v. 17) and warns against falling from their steadfast faith, led away by the error of the lawless. Growing in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord” protects us from being led away by error from the Lord (v. 18). Yes, God’s grace is greater than sin. But we cannot “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 5:20-6:1). (Grace is not a license to sin by teaching and following error.) Growing in grace is explained in Titus 2:11-14 as denying sin and living “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” So, growing in grace requires us to increase in our knowledge of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Good fruit results when we hear, know, and follow “the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5-6, 9-11). The gospel is “the word of His grace” that strengthens us and grants us our eternal inheritance (Acts 20:32). Therefore, we are strengthened by God’s grace as we grow in our knowledge of His word (2 Tim. 2:1-2). Grace and knowledge are not opponents. They work together, bringing glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as they equip us to share in His glory (Col. 3:4).
Jesus has warned us not to judge lest our unrighteous measure of judgment condemns us (Matt. 7:1-2). Jesus forthrightly judged (condemned) hypocritically judging others while ignoring ourselves (Matt. 7:3-5). James reinforced this truth, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Jesus went on to imply we must judge several things: (1) What is holy and what are pearls, and (2) Who are dogs and swine. Holy things are pure, blameless, and set apart to God and His service. Your pearls would be your precious things. The gospel, salvation, faith, and heavenly treasures are among the holy and valuable things we judge to be great treasures. Dogs and swine were unclean under the Law of Moses and used by Christ as figures of impure, contemptible character and conduct (cf. Deut. 23:18; 2 Kings 8:13). But the dogs and swine in this passage have two legs, not four. So, take care to live holy and not defile yourself with evil companions (1 Cor. 15:33). Judge error from the truth and avoid the “dogs” who hold God’s truth in contempt and with their false doctrines (Phil. 3:2-3). Oh yes, we must judge what is right to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (Luke 12:57; Rom. 12:9). God’s word of truth is holy. It identifies our pearls, and those whose sin and error identifies them as dogs and swine. Beware. They will turn on you when given a chance. Come out, be separate, and do not touch what is unclean (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you (1 John 2:26, NKJV).
The possibility of being deceived about spiritual matters is just as real today as when the apostle John wrote to the children of God. As then, many are still against Christ yet pose as if they are for Christ; Hence, the warning against being deceived (1 John 2:18-19). John emphatically directs us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). How? By using the truth with which Christ has endowed (anointed) us: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21). The truth Jesus Christ gave us through His apostles (1) Identifies the deceptions of false teachings (1 John 4:6), and (2) Assures our fellowship with the Father and the Son (John 14:21-24), and (3) Leads us to His promise of eternal life (1 Pet. 1:3-9). John says these are among the reasons we let His word abide in us (1 John 2:24-27; John 8:31-32). Use God’s word to verify your faith. Rejoice in your fellowship with God and be comforted in Christ’s promise of eternal life. Rest assured, God’s word of truth will not deceive you.
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3, NKJV)
If we believe the Scriptures apply to us today, then we have been exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith” along with the first-century saints who were “called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). Contending for the faith is not disconnected from our common salvation; it is integral to it. Failure to do so gives license to “ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness” and by their errors “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). False doctrine destroys our common salvation in Christ. Therefore, we must agonize intensely (“contend earnestly”) for the faith, the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13). We do not “contend earnestly” for political parties to save souls. Sin in politics ought to be exposed (Eph. 5:11). We do not “contend earnestly” for human wisdom to save souls. Sin in academia ought to be exposed (1 Cor. 3:18-21). We do not contend for an exclusively “positive” gospel that refuses to save souls by reproving and rebuking sin (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Declaring the “whole counsel of God” means we do not give quarter to sin wherever it is because souls are at stake, including ours (Acts 20:26-27). Join the struggle and hold up the hands of those who contend earnestly for the faith (1 Tim. 6:12).
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Philippians 3:1–2, NKJV)
Identifying enemies of the truth and warning against those who destroy souls with their false doctrines and sinful conduct is not pleasant. Undoubtedly, that is why many refuse to do it. They prefer to let others do the hard work of exposing “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18; Eph. 5:11). Yet, Paul said doing so was necessary for the spiritual safety of the Philippian Christians. He did not see this work as bothersome, and he would not neglect it (v. 1). He gives three warnings concerning those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame—who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:20). 1) Beware of dogs. Isaiah described the irresponsible watchmen (leaders) of Israel as “dumb” (silent), lazy, and “greedy” (Isa. 56:10-11). There are still people who scavenge for the souls of the innocent, like pack dogs. Jesus warned of these “dogs” (Matt. 7:6). 2) Beware of evil workers. You will know the false prophets who speak in the name of the Lord by their fruit when they stray from the commands of God (Matt. 7:15-21; Psa. 119:115). 3) Beware of the mutilation. Those who bound physical circumcision on Gentiles for salvation were mutilators who put confidence in the flesh instead of the Spirit (Phil. 3:3; Gal. 6:12-13; Col. 2:11-12). That is what error always does and why it must be resisted (Jude 3).
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. 10 He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 9–11, NKJV)
From pulpits and pews, people speak of “salvation issues.” True, there are issues of personal conscience and choice (on which God has not given a divine pronouncement) that qualify as non-salvation issues (Rom. 14:1-5). But today’s passage is not of that sort. The doctrine of Christ has been revealed and recorded in the Scriptures. We are called to abide in His doctrine (the truth, Jno. 8:31-32). The Scriptures reveal issues that affect salvation. Here are some: 1) Sin is a salvation issue (Rom. 6:23). Violating God’s will (and tolerating its transgression) brings eternal death. 2) Worship is a salvation issue (Jno. 4:22-24). We cannot offer God vain worship (void of “spirit and truth”) and be saved despite sinful worship (Matt. 15:7-9). 3) False doctrine is a salvation issue (2 Tim. 2:16-19). Men strayed from the truth and overthrew people’s faith with their iniquity when they taught error about the resurrection. For this reason, John warned us not to have fellowship with those who teach error (2 Jno. 10-11). 4) Spiritual neglect is a salvation issue (Heb. 2:1-4). Failure to grow in Christ is a sin that brings punishment (v. 3). Simply put, when God speaks His will, it becomes a salvation issue (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).