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.
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11, NKJV)
Paul’s patient love for Mark compels us to ponder the breadth and depth of our love for brethren. Paul had not always considered Mark useful (good and profitable) for the service of the gospel. About 20 years earlier, John Mark had joined Paul and Barnabas on a preaching journey into Gentile regions, only to leave them and return to Jerusalem shortly after it began (Acts 13:4-5, 13). This failure to continue with them caused Paul to insist Mark would not be on his next preaching trip despite disagreeing with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). We should note that Paul did not “write off” Barnabas or Mark as unworthy Christians who did not love the Lord. The rest of the story makes this apparent. Paul was associated with Mark during his first Roman imprisonment (AD 60-62), sending greetings from him to the Colossian church and instructing them to welcome Mark if he came to them (Col. 4:10). Now, during his final days of life, Paul asked for Mark. The man he had refused to take with him roughly two decades earlier was now useful for the gospel’s service (2 Tim. 4:11). A great lesson of love’s patient endurance is staring us in the face (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Mark’s faith had matured, and Paul respected that. Paul loved Mark. Indeed, “love suffers long and is kind” as it rejoices in the truth. Love keeps on bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, both in our attitudes and treatment of others. Love did not fail Paul and Mark. It will not fail us, either.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The church of Christ is a spiritual kingdom (Jno. 18:36; Matt. 16:18-19). According to the New Testament model, local churches of Christ exist to spread the gospel (evangelism), to serve Christians in times of deprivation (benevolence), and to strengthen the souls of the disciples (edification). Edification (building up) is spiritual strengthening that occurs through our worship and the instruction from the word of God (Col. 3:16; Acts 14:22). The Scriptures do not describe social and recreational activities as edification and fellowship. Spaghetti suppers, volleyball games, and camping events are not sources of spiritual edification. It is the word of God’s grace (the gospel), “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In today’s passage, the proper use of the temporary miraculous spiritual gifts (tongues, revelation, interpretation), as well as psalms and teaching of God’s word, would edify the church (1 Cor. 14:27-33, 3-5). Miraculous spiritual gifts served their purposes and ended, but our need for spiritual growth to maturity in Christ endures (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16). Thank God He arranged the local church to come together so we can grow and be strong in Christ (Acts 20:28; Heb. 10:24-25).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2–4, NKJV)
The ability to endure the trials and pressures of life with joy and not be frustrated (or even become despondent) is a clear mark of spiritual maturity. When you are “having a bad day,” do not let it overwhelm you. Refocus your attention on the joy of being a child of God. Make a deliberate decision to be patient in the moment of trial. Choose hope over despair, and a growing, maturing faith instead of discouraging doubt. Meet the trials that challenge your faith with unyielding endurance. Allow your hope to anchor your soul in the hour of trial. Patience will work in you to complete your faith and embolden your joy.
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, (Ephesians 3:16, NKJV)
God has a bountiful storehouse of blessings due to His glorious riches. God’s standard of giving is generous, plentiful to overflowing. Paul was confident that God could abundantly grant the Ephesians his request. He begins by asking the Lord to grant these Christians inward, spiritual strength. The Spirit of God is active in our hearts through the “hearing of faith” (the gospel) to invigorate our spiritual growth. The Spirit of God have gives us “the pure milk of the word” by which we grow and become strong (1 Pet. 2:2). Physical strength eventually wanes, but our spiritual strength can grow “day by day” until the dawn of eternity (2 Cor. 4:16). Remember to pray for spiritual strength; Strength to reject temptation. Strength to walk as Jesus walked. Strength to examine yourself against God’s standard of truth. And, strength to use the Spirit’s word in your life to be nourished and be strengthened with power to be faithful and true to the Lord.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (2 Peter 1:5–7, NKJV)
Half-heartedness does not please God. We must love Him with all our heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). It is not surprising, then, that God expects us to give “all diligence” when it comes to spiritual development. We are to approach our spiritual growth with eagerness and swiftness. This demands a mindset or way of thinking that aggressively seizes every opportunity to become stronger in faith. The growth of our faith is not something we say we will “get around to someday”. Do not sit back and wait for growth to just happen, because it will not. Seize the moment, make haste to add to your faith.