John told Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III Jn. 4). This statement, though short, teaches us several things. Let us break this verse down, see what John was saying, and make some applications to our lives.
“I Have No Greater Joy” - Nothing gave John greater joy than to know that Gaius, Demetrius (v. 12), and other Christians (i.e., “friends,” v. 14) were holding fast to the Lord. He had his joy set on things eternal and not temporal (II Cor. 4:18). In other words, John’s joy didn’t rest in men’s opinion of him or some physical pursuit. John’s joy was in knowing that faithful Christians were doing their duty for the Lord! (See: II John 4)
Friend, what gives you joy? Is it vacations? Physical pursuits? Work? Children? Cars? Hobbies? These things might bring momentary happiness, but what brings joy? Is our true joy found in spiritual things? If we truly love the brethren as we ought (I Pet. 2:17), we will be able to speak as John concerning the well-doing of brethren all over this country and world!
“Than To Hear” - Though he wasn’t there in body, John was concerned for the brethren. He wanted “to hear” about Gaius, and others and learn about their welfare. I know brethren who look down on such concern for others, but John (and the other apostles) showed us the proper example (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Eph. 5:1-2). Please understand, John wasn’t interested in gossip, etc., but genuinely concerned for their souls. This needs to be our attitude as well (Prov. 25:25).
Other apostles showed concern for the brethren as well. We see Paul’s care for brethren through all of his epistles (II Cor. 11:28; Rom. 16:1-15; I Cor. 1:11; Phil. 4:21; Col. 4:15, 17). The same goes for Peter (I Pet. 1:1, 2:17; II Pet. 1:1).
How concerned are we for our brethren? Do we show it through prayers? Through financial support or other means? Are we so caught up in ourselves that we don’t have time to “hear” about the welfare of other Christians?
“My Children” - This does not have reference to his physical lineage, but to those he had been instrumental in bringing to the Lord. The apostle Paul used the same language for those he taught (I Cor. 4:15, 17; I Tim. 1:1-2; II Tim. 1:1-2; Titus 1:4).
I think it is interesting to note that we are never told about the apostles’ physical children. (For example, we know the apostle Peter had children, I Pet. 5:1!) I wonder if this was done so we would keep our eyes on the apostles who pointed us to Christ, rather than on their descendants that we might treat as “royalty,” or give them some special position in the church that God never intended?
Brethren, what is our attitude toward fellow Christians? Do we strive for closeness? Do we treat one another as brethren? Let’s ask this another way: How many can we consider “children” in the sense the John and Paul used the word (II Tim. 2:2)?
“Walk In Truth” - The word “walk” describes one’s manner of life or behavior. This was seen as Gaius showed hospitality toward others, and showed the right example to fellow Christians not traveling (III Jn. 5-8). In other words, Gaius was faithfully following God despite the difficulties that surrounded him. He didn’t merely give lip-service to the truth, but was walking in it! John said those, like Gaius, who were walking in the truth brought him great joy. Why did he have joy? It is because he knew that what they were doing pleased the Father (II Jn 4; III Jn. 4). Let us examine ourselves so that when the Lord returns, He will find us walking in truth.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
As Peter ended his second letter, he commanded his readers to be involved in one of the most important things we can do - grow! We noted yesterday the importance of growing in grace. Now, we take note of something else we need to do. We need to also “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Please note that when it comes to spiritual growth, this is a voluntary act. We are commanded to grow. This is not like physical growth, where we have no control over how tall or how short we are (Matt. 6:27; Lk. 12:25). This is a conscious decision we make daily.
Growth is necessary for physical life, as well as spiritual life. Without growth, we will stagnate and die! It is not enough for a Christian to simply “sit back” and wait for the Lord to return. We need to be active and grow so long as we are upon this earth (Heb. 5:14). In this text, Peter says we need to grow in knowledge, but not just any kind of knowledge! We must grow in the knowledge “of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”! It is this kind of knowledge that saves us (II Peter 2:20a)!
How do we grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? We do this the same way we grow in any other field of study. We need to take the time to learn! This means reading and studying God’s word (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). I am hopeful that our journey this last month in the book of II Peter has been an encouragement to you to read II Peter for yourself. I pray the topics we have explored have motivated you to go and learn the truth for yourself and to dig deeper into the Text. This is a needed aspect of our growth. While I hope that writings like this are helpful to you, this is no substitute for putting your nose in the Book! We, as a people, have spent too much time reading about the Bible. It is time we read the Bible! This will feed our souls (II Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:14) and help us to grow!
We also grow when we take what we have learned and apply or use it daily (I Thess. 5:21). Knowledge is not very useful if it is merely something we “store up” in memory but never really apply in life. I am reminded of the memes that say, “I have gone ____ days and still haven’t used algebra.” The old saying is true that if we don’t use something, we lose it! How much are we using our knowledge of Scriptures?
Peter commanded us to grow in God’s knowledge because we use this knowledge …
- To withstand temptation (Ps. 119:101; Matt. 4:1-13; Eph. 6:16).
- To repent and be restored when I stumble (Ps. 119:9; Acts 8:22; I Jn. 1:9)
- To be clean (Jn. 15:3).
- To be wise (II Tim. 3:15; Ps. 119:98-100).
- To show others the Lord’s way (II Tim. 2:2).
- To treat others in a godly manner (Matt. 7:12; 22:37-39).
These and many other reasons can be brought to mind as advantages for knowing God’s word and growing in that knowledge. How are you doing along this line? If you have been failing, then I hope these words might serve as a reminder and as encouragement to get into God’s word! Read it, study it, live it, and see the blessings that will come as a result. This is not merely a suggestion from a friend, but remember, this is a command of God to grow (II Pet. 3:18)! Let’s get busy!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The final words of the epistles interest me. I think about these men and think, “If I was writing a letter to these churches or individuals, what would I say at the end of the letter to leave a lasting impression?” Of course, these letters are inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21), but still, each letter must end. II Peter 3:18 is the end of Peter’s message “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1). How fitting that after telling these people they need to be reminded of the truth, after warning them about false teachers and preparing for the end of the world, Peter says essentially, “While we are on earth, keep growing!”
In this study, I want us to focus on the first part of Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:18. Growing in grace is something that all Christians need to do. Perhaps some folks think God’s grace is reserved for the non-Christian who needs to be saved. Actually, the saved and the unsaved need God’s grace. In the case of the Christian, Peter says we must “grow” in that grace. What do these words mean?
The word “grace” comes from the Greek word “Charis” which means, “good-will, lovingkindness, favor .... is used of kindness of a master towards his inferiors or servants, and so esp. of God toward men .... kindness which bestows upon one what he hasn’t deserved .... pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ” (Thayer’s, p. 666). Some have shortened the definition of grace to mean simply “unmerited favor.” The word “grow” means what we think it means, the original word means, “enlarge or increase” (Strong’s). Mr. Thayer adds to the definition of “grow” by including “augment, become greater.”
Thus, there is a call and command for Christians to increase, enlarge, or become greater concerning God’s favor. The Christian needs to grow closer in relationship to God rather than farther away (Jas. 4:8). The Christian is the one who should realize how much he indeed relies on God’s grace or favor. We are sinners that have been forgiven (Acts 2:38), and now we must grow and continue to resist temptations daily (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:7). Therefore, if you feel like you’re getting farther from God instead of closer to Him, check your growth! Are you growing in the right direction? Let us increase in this grace, and understand that we will not get to Heaven without it!
How do we “grow in grace”? Peter says we need to stand in the true grace of God (I Pet. 5:12). The word “stand” in this text is not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort. We need to beware of the dangers of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). We also need to spend time in God’s book (Eph. 3:4, 5:17; II Tim. 2:15) that we might know what God wants and be encouraged to grow as we need to grow! Don’t forget II Peter 1:5-11 and what we need to do to make our “calling and election sure.” These are necessary actions that we might grow in God’s grace.
Don’t believe the lie where people charge, “You people in the church of Christ don’t teach about grace.” The truth is, when you preach the gospel of Christ, I don’t know how you can keep from teaching on grace! Every aspect of the gospel is a product of God’s grace, His unmerited favor! It is a fact that God’s grace justifies (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24), it produces redemption (Eph. 1:7), and we who are Christians need to “grow in grace”! How are you doing in this area?
- Jarrod M. Jacob
I have been blessed with opportunities to preach on the radio throughout my life. I love radio work and am thankful I have been able to do this! Several years back, I was preaching on a radio station where the DJ/Owner was a Baptist and believed intensely in the “once-saved-always-saved” false doctrine. We had talked about this and other subjects in the past, but seemingly to no avail. On a day I will never forget, I was in the studio and began my program. The study included II Peter 3:17, which I read without comment. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” As I finished, I looked up from my Bible and saw this man literally shaking in his seat. In a moment, he composed himself walked out of the studio, leaving me alone to preach. I was impressed with the fact that the power is not in me, but in the word to change hearts (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12)! What I was unable to do in months of talking, God’s word did in one sentence! He felt the power of those words and could see that what Peter wrote contradicted his belief.
What did Peter teach? Hopefully, as we have studied II Peter, we have seen his concern for the brethren. He wanted the people to be strong and add to their faith (ch. 1:5-10). He wanted to remind the brethren of “the present truth” so long as he lived (1:12-15) and to remain grounded as they prepared for the false teachers (ch. 2). An example of false teaching they faced was those who said the Lord would not return, and there is no judgment (ch. 3). Peter showed that these people were impatient and wrong and that the Lord doesn’t count time as we do (3:9). Finally, we read the warning, “Beware”! Beware that you are not “led away” and “fall from your own stedfastness” (3:17)!
The word “beware” is important. The original word (phulasso) suggests, “keep on your guard, avoid, or keep yourself from something” (Strong’s). We use this word in a similar way in English. To us, “beware” means there is danger to life and limb. Therefore, we need to stay away. Peter warns his readers to beware of being led away by the error of the wicked. Being led away is not harmless fun. It is not a minor infraction. We are in danger of losing our souls when we go with the wicked. Beware!
Notice Peter is telling Christians (1:1), not lost people, that they can fall from their own stedfastness. When people say that a Christian can’t fall away, don’t forget to show them this passage and I Timothy 4:1. Peter (by inspiration) was so concerned about Christians falling away that he wrote an entire book dedicated to keeping folks saved! This was the same motivation of the writer of Hebrews and the apostle Paul in his letters. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we can become Christians, and then after this, we can never fall. That is not taught in the Scriptures at all.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Peter wrote to the Christians and said, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (II Pet. 3:13-15).
What does Peter mean when he uses the term, “new heavens and new earth”? There have been many false doctrines that have arisen from a misunderstanding of this phrase. Some, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have misunderstood this phrase and teach that one day we will live on a “rejuvenated” earth. Some teach that Heaven and earth will somehow be joined together as one mass. To them, this is the “new heavens and new earth.” Neither of these positions teaches what Peter is teaching. They are false. We need to respect the context of II Peter as well as the context of the Bible itself to know the truth and understand what this phrase means.
First, understand that the phrase “new heavens and new earth” is not exclusive to II Peter. It is found in four places in the Bible - Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; II Peter 3:13; and Revelation 21:1. Secondly, the phrase “new heavens and new earth” does not have to do exclusively with Heaven. It merely means a new order of things. While this phrase can refer to Heaven, as it is definitely a “new order” from what we are used to, it does not mean God’s abode exclusively. A prime example of this distinction is found in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. There, it means a new order was coming, and it did, about 700 years later! So, let us respect the context.
In Peter’s letter, I understand him to be speaking about Heaven, God’s abode, because he said that in the “new heavens and new earth,” righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3:13). This agrees with his first letter when he said Christians are recipients of an “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4). This “new order” is a place where we who have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet. 1:4) will live!
It obviously agrees with the immediate context, because Peter said the Lord will return and this earth will be destroyed by fire (II Pet. 3:10-12). Since this is true, we who are His children look for that “new heavens and new earth” (new order) where we will live in righteousness. We can’t do that on this sinful earth, but we can do it in God’s abode!
In preparation for this new order (in this context, Heaven), then let us make sure we are “diligent” to be “found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (II Pet. 3:14). In other words, let us be faithful to God and let us make sure we are living what we are teaching. How strong is our faith (Heb. 11:6)? Let it be seen in our actions (Jas. 2:18b).
Why has the Lord not returned yet? Read II Peter 3:15 and see that Christ’s longsuffering is still active. We also read about this longsuffering in verse 9. Let us thank God for His longsuffering. While we look forward to the new order of things and a new beginning, we can be patient and try to help one more come out of sin (II Cor. 5:11; II Tim. 4:2). What will you do today to help someone be free (Jn. 8:31-32, 36; Rom. 6:17-18?) Let us be active in serving the Lord and look forward to that new order with fondness!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs