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 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him (Luke 8:17–18, NKJV).
How we listen to God’s word is a determining factor of whether we will understand it. When we make up our mind about any Bible subject before even considering what the whole counsel of God says, we have closed hearts, ears, and eyes (Luke 8:9-10; Matt. 13:10-17). We will never accept and hold fast the word of God with such a self-satisfied mindset (Luke 8:15). God’s word is not beyond comprehension. It reveals the purposes and will of God and the secrets of the human heart (Luke 8:17, 10; Heb. 4:12). A willingness to do God’s will, coupled with an earnest examination of God’s word, will result in knowing, accepting, and obeying His word (John 7:16-17; Acts 17:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15). This person is assured abundant spiritual blessings (Luke 8:18). The person who dismisses the meaning of God’s word because it does not agree with feelings, experiences, and preconceived ideas has deceived himself. What he thinks he possesses (knowledge of the truth) is denied him due to conceit, self-righteousness, and arrogant assumptions. When we listen to God’s word, may we always keep humble hearts turned toward God and away from ourselves. Be careful how you listen to God’s word (John 8:43-47).
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56, NKJV).
How could Abraham, who lived almost two thousand years before Jesus, see and rejoice in the day of Christ? Obviously, not with physical eyes. Abraham saw the Messiah’s time (“My day”) with eyes of faith. He believed the promise of God that “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:18). The writer to the Hebrews boldly says concerning Abraham (and others), “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Abraham saw God’s fulfillment before it happened because he lived by faith in God. Indeed, God “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Gal. 3:8). Christians “are blessed with believing Abraham” because we are “of faith” (Gal. 3:7, 9, 1-2). The striking contrast Jesus made in John 8 is that Jews who claimed to be children of Abraham saw Messiah’s day, but instead of rejoicing, they did not believe. They did not do the works of Abraham; They tried to kill Jesus (John 8:39-40, 59). Furthermore, Abraham obeyed God’s word, even as Jesus did (John 8:54-55). They were children of the devil by refusing to believe and obey the truth Jesus spoke (John 8:31-32, 40-47). Christians walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). With eyes of faith, we “see Jesus” at God’s right hand of glory, the great I AM whose died, arose, and is exalted, blessing all “who are of the faith of Abraham” (John 8:57-58; Rom. 4:16).
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:28–29, NKJV).
Roman authorities had already imprisoned Paul for more than two years (Acts 24:27). Now, before the Roman governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II, Paul defended his faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25:21-26:23). His compelling rehearsal of Christ’s appearance, appointment, and commission of Paul as an apostle, coupled with his obedient preaching to the Gentiles, supported his conclusion that the gospel fulfilled Moses and the prophets. Festus rejected the gospel out of hand, but Herod, who believed the prophets and had witnessed the events of which Paul spoke, was almost persuaded by the apostle’s words of “truth and reason” (Acts 26:24-28). Although imprisoned, Paul was genuinely free while his audience was in sin’s bondage (John 8:32, 34, 36). Paul was not vindictive, bitter, and hateful over his false imprisonment. He did not rail at Festus and Agrippa. Instead, he desired their salvation. Paul’s defense became an opportunity to preach the saving gospel for their benefit. Even so, may we not be blinded by the injustices of others. Our desire must ever be their salvation in Christ. We must continue to “speak the truth in love” as Paul did that day (Eph. 4:15). Some will be persuaded, obey the gospel, and be saved from sin (Acts 28:30-31; Phil. 1:13; 4:22).
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32, NKJV).
An enlarged heart indicates one is not well. This condition is treatable but can be dangerous and life-threatening. The opposite is true of the heart most often discussed in the Bible (one’s mind or inner being, Acts 2:37; 1 Pet. 3:4). The psalmist was sure God would enlarge his heart because he “ran the course” of God’s commands. Perhaps Jesus best described this large heart, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Here are ways our hearts grow larger by keeping God’s commands. (1) Wisdom and understanding are associated with an enlarged heart. God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). Our knowledge and discernment increase as we abound in love and keep God’s commands (Phil. 1:9-11; Heb. 5:14). (2) Christians’ hearts are enlarged with joy. Isaiah prophesied Zion’s joy when he predicted the Lord’s glory in the church, “Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy” (Isa. 60:5; Heb. 12:22-23). Our hearts are full of joy in Christ (Phil. 4:4)! (3) Christians open their hearts to God’s truth instead of closing their minds to its teaching and rebuke. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and the truth he preached, even as he had opened his heart to them (2 Cor. 6:11, 13; 7:2). Accepting and obeying the truth is not always easy. An open heart receives the truth and runs the course of God’s commands (Luke 8:15). How large is your heart today? Hearts grow as God is obeyed.
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him (Matthew 12:9–10, NKJV).
The enemies of Jesus looked for opportunities to accuse Him and destroy His credibility. They carefully watched to see if He would be so bold as to heal on the Sabbath (Luke 6:7). With a disabled man before them, they confronted Jesus in the synagogue, asking whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath (implying that to do so would violate the Sabbath’s work prohibition, Exod. 20:8-10). Jesus explained the law allowed them to show mercy toward animals on the Sabbath; How much more so was it, therefore, “lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:11-12). With that, Jesus healed the man’s hand (Matt. 12:13). His accusers were enraged and left to plot His demise (Matt. 12:14; Luke 6:11). Consider these tips from the text: (1) Those faithless men could not heal the man. But, they could have shown him mercy. Instead, they saw him only as a tool for their devious design against Jesus. (2) Only a person sent from God could work such healing as this (John 3:2). They refused to be convinced by the power of God they saw. Like them, we must learn mercy and show it every day (Micah 6:8; Matt. 9:13). (3) Mercy and truth have met in the Son of God (cf. Ps. 85:10). The Lord of the Sabbath mercifully heals our souls from sin and gives us entrance into eternal rest when our work on earth is over (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:8-11).
I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (Luke 12:49, NKJV)!
The picture of Jesus as a passionless, passive person is not the portrait emblazoned on the pages of inspired Scripture. His passionate heart bursts open in this passage as He testifies of the conflagration His word and work would have (and was already having) on the world. As Plummer commented, “Christ came to set the world on fire, and the conflagration had already begun” (cited by A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures). Soon, Jesus would be immersed in personal suffering and death, the sacrifice for our sins (Luke 12:50). His redemptive work would (and continues to) divide families. Do you suppose it would be otherwise (Luke 12:51)? Not at all. Families would be (and still are) divided by the truth of Jesus Christ, as some believe and follow Him while others reject His truth and oppose those who choose Him over them (Luke 12:52-53; Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus continued His thunderous proclamation by calling out the hypocrites who could read the weather signs but refused to see the signs that He is the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 12:54-57; Matt. 16:1-4). No, Jesus was not a shrinking violet. Followers of Jesus understand and accept the cost of discipleship. They pay the price of allegiance to Him, putting Him above and before anyone or anything else (Luke 14:25-33). The fire of trials will test and purify the Christian’s faith and produce genuine faith that results in eternal salvation (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).
God’s creation of humans in His image was the crowning jewel of His creation (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:4-9). Nothing else He created bears His likeness, not gold, silver, stone, or animals (Acts 17:29). Tragically, people distort God’s beautiful creation of male and female into gender images bearing no resemblance to the order He designed. God created two genders, but now people have imaged and invented gender neutrality and gender fluidity. These offer illusions of one’s identity in place of one of the most distinguishing traits God gave us, our gender. Biology (i.e., science) determines gender, not emotions. (Chromosomes are sticklers that way.) I’m no scientist, but I know the XY chromosome is unique to males, and the XX chromosome is unique to females. God created them to assign gender to each new life formed at conception (Ps. 139:13). Declaring that your gender is different from your chromosomal assignment does not make it so. Suppressing or increasing hormones does not change this basic fact. Instead of such artificial manipulations, let us see God’s wisdom and design in both genders. God made male and female unique yet complementary, each completing and needing the other (Gen. 2:20-24; 1 Cor. 11:11-12). A willingness to accept one’s gender involves, to some measure, acknowledging God who created male and female. Being content with one’s gender implies contentment with God (and vice versa). That gets to the underlying issue. When one does not honor God, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept being made in His image, whether male or female (Rom. 1:21-22). And so, the truth is exchanged for the lie (Rom. 1:24-25).
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).
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV).”
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are people of integrity. They keep their word. The Jews had invented ingenious ways to circumvent honesty while still claiming to be honest. They thought they could swear by the temple and free themselves from their pledge. But, they said an oath made by the temple’s gold obliged one to keep it (Matt. 23:16). Jesus said they were blind fools for making such false oaths (Matt. 26:17, 18-22). It is intriguing and pertinent that today’s passage (that emphasizes the integrity of keeping one’s word) immediately follows Christ’s declaration of the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 5:31-32). The marriage vow is for life (“until death we do part”), and yet too many break their vow and think they are freed from their obligation made to and before God (Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3). The Christian’s word is trustworthy and dependable in all matters. Playing word games to evade the truth and our moral responsibility makes us no different from the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Let your word be your bond. People notice, and so does the Lord (Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:12; Ps. 15:4).