The lesson we learn from every life form is that “all things grow” [or they die] and that growth is highly dependent upon specific environmental factors—nutrients, moisture, sunlight, and some kind of internal guidance system.
By properly assimilating/integrating the various elements, everything gradually grows from a state of immaturity to a state of maturity. It should be noted that what is true of the physical realm is also true of the spiritual realm.
The apostle Peter urges (desires) us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and “grow with respect to your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Likewise, the apostle Paul charges us to “grow up in all aspects of Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
The Christian life begins with “birth,” and after birth comes “growth” — if there is no growth after being born, then there is no life (James 2:14-20; 1 John 3:17; 4:8, 20; 5:1,3).
Let us look at 2 Peter 3:15–18 in more depth. Following are the main points:
According to verse 15, we should regard the time in which we live as a time of salvation.
Verses 15 and 16 say that this is also what Paul taught, and his letters have the same authority as the inspired Old Testament scriptures.
Verse 16, points out that, the inspiration of Paul's letters, nevertheless, does not mean they are all easy to understand.
Misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction.
Verses 17 and 18 tell us to guard ourselves from error and destruction by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Finally, from the last sentence of the book, remember that the great goal of God in our lives is that Jesus Christ be glorified. Everything else is designed to that end.
The Age of Salvation
Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15).
He is telling us how to think about the time of delay in which we live before the second coming. Verse 15 is God's Word on how to interpret the time in which we live.
The Savior has come and opened the way to God. While he forbears, the way is still open. When He comes, the way will be closed and the time of salvation will have passed.
The history of the world between the first and second coming of Christ is, above all, an age of salvation.
Paul's Letters as Scripture
So also our beloved brother, Paul, wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Peter says: "Count the forbearance of the Lord as salvation." Paul says, in Romans 2:4: "Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"
Both teach that God's withholding judgment is an act of forbearance which should be regarded as giving added time for repentance and salvation. False teachers may reject the second coming of Christ.
This is why the Bible stands at the center of Christian life. For we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God—that it stands before us as our guide, and over us as our judge, and under us as the rock of our hope. The more you read it, the more you will see with the eyes of God.
Scripture Can Be Hard to Understand
There are some things in them hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).
Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind of God.
The mind of God is vastly greater than our minds and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple.
Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand.
Misinterpretation Can Lead to Destruction
The ignorant and unstable twist them to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
Because the eternal destiny of the people hangs on how they interpret the Scripture.
Guard Yourself from Error
Therefore, beloved, knowing beforehand (that you can be destroyed by misusing Scripture), beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18).
The antidote to deception and destruction is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The contrast between verses 17 and 18 is between, on the one hand, a tree which does not grow and so loses its stability in the earth and is blown over by a wind of false teaching and dies, and, on the other hand (v. 18), a tree which keeps its roots planted in God's grace and so grows and stays healthy and stable and does not get blown over by false teaching.
Growth depends on life
This is just as true spiritually as it is physically. You must be born before you can grow. The Bible teaches that we all enter the world spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3). Being religious or moral is not enough.
Jesus told the religious, moral Pharisee, Nicodemus,
Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
God alone can impart new life. Genuine Christianity is a matter of what Henry Scougal called, “the life of God in the soul of man.”
Growth is a necessity, not an option
The Christian life is like riding a bike: if you aren’t moving forward, you will fall off. Growth is normal when there is life. But, unlike children, when it comes to the spiritual life, growth doesn’t end. We must keep growing until the day we meet Jesus Christ.
Growth is gradual, not instantaneous
Even Jesus started out in this world as a baby. It takes time to mature and develop. You don’t bring a baby home from the hospital and say, “There’s the refrigerator, kid. The bathroom is down the hall. Take care of yourself!”
The important thing is to be involved in the process so that there is progress. You may not discern change from week to week, but over the long haul, you should be able to look back and see that you love Christ more now than you did five years ago. Now you are more sensitive to your sin than you were before. Now you obey the Word more consistently than you used to do.
The fact that growth is gradual runs counter to the popular idea that you can become holy in an instant through some powerful experience with God.
The thought of instant, effortless sanctification sounds appealing. It is often promoted as, “get baptized in the Spirit,” or, “speak in tongues,” and you will have instant victory over sin.
Growth is difficult, not easy
You have to crawl before you walk and once you get the hang of walking, you still fall down a lot. And spiritual growth is the same way. There are a lot of tough lessons that you only learn by trial and error.
With those general lessons, let us consider specifically what it means to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Because “grace” is foundational to our Christian growth, it is important that we have a correct understanding of grace. A general definition of grace is this — Grace is undeserved blessing freely bestowed/granted by God, without regard for any human merit.
Grace has been contrasted with justice and mercy as follows —
Justice is getting what you deserve.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is getting what you do not deserve.
A. Grow in the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Grace is the key to a relationship with God because He both saves us by His grace (Eph. 2:8) and sustains us by grace (2 Cor. 12:9). The world operates on the merit system. If you work for good grades in school, you can get into college. In the merit system, you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get. And all of the world’s religions, including some which are labelled “Christian,” operate on the merit system. You get into heaven based on what you have done.
The merit system rewards our achievement and feeds our pride.
But grace is opposed to the merit system. Grace means undeserved favour. We deserve God’s wrath, but He blesses us apart from our works.
Under grace, we do not work to earn heaven, but we freely receive all that God has provided for us at Christ’s expense.
The overall principle is, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). Growing in grace involves coming to a greater understanding of God’s holiness, justice, and sovereignty, which also makes us better see our own rebellion, selfishness, and pride.
B. Grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
For the third time in this letter, Peter refers to Jesus as “our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1:11; 2:20).
The Christian life is a matter of progressively growing in submission to Christ as through God’s Word we see more of who He is and more of who you are.
Knowledge of Christ protects us from the many errors of false cults which deny the deity of Jesus Christ.
We should be growing to know Him personally on a deeper and deeper level as we spend frequent time with Him in His Word and in prayer.
So Peter tells us that to persevere as a Christian, we must guard ourselves from spiritual error and grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.
2 Peter—For Christ's Glory
The message of 2 Peter is that the joy of hope is the power of godliness. The knowledge of God's promises is the pathway of his power (1:3, 4). The promises, the power, the hope, and the godliness are all because of his grace. And so the book ends—and with these words we take our leave:
"To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."