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).
4 “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4–6, NKJV).
Yahweh saved Israel from Egyptian oppression and He sustained her in the wilderness. But instead of giving God thankful, obedient service, Israel forgot the Lord and turned to idols (Hosea 13:1-2). Worshiping Baal and the golden calves Jeroboam had set up, Israel added sin upon sin. What led to Israel’s apostasy warns us not to fall as she did (1 Cor. 10:6-12). Hosea 13:6 describes the sequence of Israel’s apostasy. (1) Israel became satisfied in her prosperity. They were “at ease” in their abundance and failed to humbly obey God and serve their brethren (Amos 6:1-7). The church of the Laodiceans provides a similar warning against spiritual apathy (Rev. 3:15-17). (2) Israel’s heart was filled with pride. Pride is an insidious enemy that elevates us above God in our minds. Pride is an undeniable step away from God and is abhorrent to God (Amos 6:8). The church in Sardis wrestled with pride’s self-righteous fruit (Rev. 3:1-2). (3) Israel forgot God in her self-sufficiency. Israel forgot that God was their savior and sustainer. Israel’s prosperity led to prideful sufficiency while ignoring God (Deut. 8:1-20; 32:15). The parable of the rich fool warns us not to trust riches but to lay up heavenly treasures (Luke 12:15-21). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
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 truly incredible how so many people insist on propping up the false doctrine that Christians cannot fall away from the Lord and be lost. The false doctrine suggests teaching the possibility of apostasy diminishes God’s power to save. That is a diversionary, deceptive, and destructive lie of the devil, the father of lies. Of course, God has the power to save. Human free will is also a part of the equation; We are saved “by grace” (God’s part) “through faith” (our part) (Eph. 2:8). Without free will, we are mere robots. God becomes an unjust tyrant, selecting some for salvation and others for damnation regardless of their conduct. That cannot be true (Acts 10:34-35; 17:30; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:4). Today’s passage overwhelms the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. Some had already fallen. Peter warns beloved Christians, “lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (v. 17). The countermeasure to prevent falling is spiritual growth in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18). When we mature in understanding and apply our faith to follow the Lord, Jesus is honored “both now and forever,” not ourselves. We dare not minimize (or even rejecting) the truth that Christians can fall and be lost. Instead, remain steadfast in your faith by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” (Luke 12:16–19, NKJV)
Those we think have it easy (the rich, the powerful) are often consumed with uneasiness (Eccl. 5:8-15). We all leave this world as we came into it (Eccl. 5:16; Job 1:21). Consider the religious ease some think they have stored up for themselves. 1) Physical lineage. God does not measure spiritual success by physical ancestry. We are children of God by faith, not by the flesh (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:26-29). No spiritual ease comes from trusting physical heritage (Matt. 3:9). 2) Salvation by faith only. Many accept that justification by faith only is “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Methodist Church Discipline, p. 57, 1980 ed.). Yet, Scripture says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). There is no spiritual comfort without the works of faith. 3) Once saved, always saved. Although many think one cannot fall from a state of grace, the Scriptures say the opposite (Gal. 5:4). 4) Christians who think they have already done their fair share. Like those “at ease in Zion,” these comfort themselves in their past service while neglecting others (Amos 6:1-6). We don’t retire from kingdom service. Christians are saved “with difficulty” (strenuous effort), not lazy neglect (1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 3:12-14). Instead of taking our ease, let us do the work the Lord gives us and be ready when our soul is required (Jno. 4:35; 9:4; Lk. 12:20-21).
“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, NKJV)
Can a Christian be lost in sin after being saved in Christ? Calvinism says, “No.” Reportedly, so did Billy Graham: “Returning home with a friend that night, Mr. Graham said, he thought: “Now I’ve gotten saved. Now whatever I do can’t unsave me. Even if I killed somebody, I can’t ever be unsaved now” (nytimes.com, Feb. 21, 2018). But, the apostle Paul told Christians, “Yes.” He said an attempt to be justified by law-keeping (the law of Moses, Galatians 2:21, 3-7) would cause them to be “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace.” That’s clear enough. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” gives false comfort because it does not conform to the Scriptures. Jesus warned of those who would joyfully “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Christians are told to “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). And so, we are urged to “exhort one another daily…lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). A Christian who does not repent and pray God’s forgiveness for sins committed, will not be saved (Acts 8:18-24; 1 John 1:9). The Scriptures must inform and sustain our faith.
25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)
We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).
15 Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not plunder his resting place; 16 For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:15–16, NKJV)
When a righteous person falls into sin or calamity, the wicked person is tempted to take advantage of the situation; to enrich himself at the expense of the fallen. Yet, the righteous will not remain overwhelmed by the moment of transgression or trial; the righteous rise in confessional repentance to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Jno. 1:9-2:1; Phil. 3:14). Therefore, do not seize upon the trials of another as if it is your advantage. It is certain that such wickedness will not stand (v. 16). But, the Lord renews the righteous because they trust Him. If you should find yourself overwhelmed by sin or by a burdensome trial, do not lose heart. The Lord forgives sin and strengthens His people to endure present sufferings. Thank God today for His compassion and for the guidance of His word, which renews our faith and strengthens us to move onward to the dawn of eternity.
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
The grace of God in which we stand is also the grace in which we must “be strong” (Rom. 5:1-2). This necessarily implies it is possible not to be strong in grace – not because God’s grace is weakened, but by failing to live by faith according to the word of God. Indeed, we can even “fall from grace” by failing to follow God’s word (as some Christians of Galatia did, Gal. 5:4). In order to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” we must faithfully hear, follow and teach “the word of His grace” which came to us from the apostles (Acts 20:32). Timothy had heard God’s word from Paul; now, he was to teach it to other faithful men (v. 2). We must continue this work of entrusting God’s word to others through by faithfully teaching it. To do so firmly establishes us in the grace of God. Without God’s word one cannot be strong in grace. Any claims to grace without truth is nothing more than an elusive illusion. But, when we abide in truth, His grace is deep and strong (Jno. 8:31-32).