and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; (3:15a)
Without question, Peter wanted his audience to wait eagerly for Christ’s return. At the same time, he did not want them to grow idle or detach themselves from society, being so consumed with thoughts of the future that they forgot about their compelling spiritual responsibilities in the present. God’s judgment had not yet come; His wrath had not yet been poured out. There was still time to proclaim the good news to the lost. Thus, Peter reminded his readers to continue in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–20), seeking to reach others with the life-giving truth of the gospel.
As noted in 3:8–9 (see the discussion of those verses in the previous chapter of this volume), the Lord delays His return in order to save the remainder of His elect. Thus, Christians should regard God’s patience with joy, knowing that He is daily adding to His family until it is complete.
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), Jesus effectively illustrated the reality of God’s merciful patience toward sinners. The story tells of a rebellious son who abandoned his family for a life of immorality and dissipation. For a long time he wasted his opportunity, passing up the privilege to serve his father. But one day he came to his senses, repented of his sinful lifestyle, and returned home. Instead of being rejected or disowned by his father—or received reluctantly—the father embraced the son with love and compassion. That father pictures God who responds to penitent sinners with mercy and grace—lavishly, joyously, and generously poured out on those who repent and come to Him in faith. And all heaven rejoices, as described by the feast the father had in honor of his son.
When Christians anticipate the day of God, which for them will mean eternal blessing, they should also remember the day of the Lord, which for the lost will mean eternal punishment. With that in mind, the opportunity of God’s current patience should only heighten the church’s evangelistic zeal (cf. Phil. 2:15; Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:5).
just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (3:15b–17)
With the phrase just as also, Peter referenced similar warnings that the apostle Paul had given about false teaching.
Peter graciously spoke of his fellow apostle as our beloved brother Paul, underscoring their common life and mission. As the two foremost leaders of the early church, Peter and Paul were certainly well-aware of each other’s ministry. In fact, both had been present at the pivotal Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:6–21), and both had ministered with Silas (cf. Acts 15:40 with 1 Peter 5:12). More than twenty years earlier, Peter had even been confronted by Paul when he wrongly refused to eat with Gentile Christians (Gal. 2:11–21; cf. vv. 8–9; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22). As a primary spokesman for the early church, Peter was undoubtedly embarrassed by Paul’s public admonition. Nevertheless, he graciously accepted the rebuke and responded with repentance. His respect for Paul was undiminished.
Here he appeals to Paul’s inspired letters for support—reminding his readers to reject the false teachers and remember what Paul wrote to them, according to the wisdom given him. Interestingly, Peter does not specify a particular Pauline letter or letters. Instead, he gives a general endorsement for Paul’s inspired writings, demonstrating the divine origin of the revelation given to Paul.
It is safe to assume that Peter sent this letter to the same regions of Asia Minor as his first epistle (cf. 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1). If so, his readers were most likely familiar with several of Paul’s letters—since Paul wrote many of his letters to that same area (e.g., Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians). So Peter’s reference to all of Paul’s letters suggests Peter’s audience was familiar with much of Paul’s correspondence. Because Paul was speaking in his letters of these same things (namely, eschatological events), it makes sense that Peter would cite Paul’s works here.
However, in Paul’s writings about the day of the Lord, the return of Christ, and the glories of eternity, Peter acknowledged there are some things hard to understand, such as the rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:15–17), the coming man of sin (2 Thess. 2:1–4), the return of Christ in judgment (1 Thess. 5:1–11; 2 Thess. 1:3–10), and the glories of heaven (2 Cor. 5:1; 12:2–4). The word rendered hard to understand (dusnoētos) carries the additional connotation of “difficult to interpret.” In using this term, Peter was not implying that Paul’s teachings are impossible to understand. He is simply recognizing that some are more complex than others, especially prophetic revelation (cf. 1 Peter 1:1–12).
Those complexities opened the door for the untaught and unstable—namely, the false teachers—to distort what Paul taught about the future. Untaught denotes a lack of information, and unstable a vacillating spiritual character. Distort speaks of wrenching someone’s body on a torture rack. The term vividly pictures how the false teachers manipulated certain prophetic issues, twisting them to confuse and deceive the undiscerning. Such distortion often continues today regarding prophetic revelation.
Not surprisingly, the false teachers did not stop with prophecy, but also distorted the rest of the Scriptures, including the biblical teaching on God’s law, repentance, justification by faith, and sanctification. The fact that Peter placed Paul’s writings on a par with the rest of the Scriptures clearly affirms that Paul wrote divinely inspired truth (cf. 1:20–21; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16–17). The New Testament writers were aware that they were writing the Word of God, as surely as the Old Testament prophets were. The word translated Scriptures is graphas, from the verb graphō (“to write”) that occurs about one hundred eighty times in the New Testament, of which half refer to the Bible, “the written word.” The noun graphē is used about fifty times, exclusively of Scripture and inclusive of the Old Testament (e.g., Mark 12:10) and the New Testament, as this reference makes clear (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3).
By distorting the Scriptures, the false teachers were simultaneously securing their own destruction (cf. 2:1, 3–12; 3:7; Jude 10, 13; Rev. 22:18–19), as well as the spiritual demise of their followers. That’s why Peter warns his beloved readers beforehand, so that they might be on their guard against the error of such unprincipled men (Phil. 3:2; 1 Tim. 4:1–7; 6:20–21; 2 Tim. 2:15–19; Titus 1:10–16; 3:10). Unprincipled (athesmōn) is literally “without law or custom,” and came to mean “morally corrupt”—the essential character trait of spiritual deceivers.
In keeping with Peter’s warning, believers must not allow themselves to be carried away by the unscriptural lies of false teachers (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18–19). Rather, they must be alert and discerning lest they fall from their own steadfastness. Steadfastness (stērigmos) indicates firmness, or firm footing; it is the very opposite of being unstable. Peter’s concern was not that his readers would fall from salvation, but that they might slip from doctrinal stability and lose their confidence in the truth (cf. 1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 4:14; 1 Thess. 5:21). For this reason, the apostle urged them to be spiritually perceptive, or discerning, so that their eternal reward would not be diminished (2 John 8).
14–16 In the saints’ present struggle to discern God’s timing and patience, Peter’s audience is to “make every effort” (spoudazō, also in 1:10, 15; GK 5079) in striving toward three aims: (1) being spotless and blameless (cf. Jude 24); (2) being at peace with the Lord; and (3) viewing God’s long-suffering as leading to the salvation of others. While the reader may not automatically see a connection between these three imperatives, they hinge on one another.
The first priority is foundational and affects one’s ability to realize the other two. The saints are called to—and remain in—an impure, vulgar world. In spite of seemingly overwhelming cultural obstacles facing the Christian community, everything for life and godliness has already been provided, based on God’s grace (1:3–4). The resources are there; what remains to be determined is the saints’ willingness.
It is no coincidence that the same language employed earlier in the epistle to characterize those troubling the community occurs again. Those following their corrupt desires and despising authority (2:10a) are portrayed as “blots and blemishes” (2:13). Peter’s concluding exhortation is that the faithful, in contrast, be without blot or blemish (3:14; cf. 1 Pe 1:19). Christian truth-claims are only as authoritative as the vessels bearing them.
The second and third priorities relate to the first. The human tendency is to question God: “Where are you, God? How long, Lord?” Hence at the heart of the ethical imperative lies the challenge of finding the place of God’s peace, bearing in mind that others’ salvation is lodged within the heart of God. The Lord, after all, does not want anyone to perish (3:9). The day of the Lord is a day of both justice and vindication. Yet, since God’s timing and purpose are beyond human comprehension, believers are challenged to find the place of rest and peace as they await his activity and struggle with the mystery of divine purpose.
Meanwhile, this will entail enduring hardship as disciples of Christ, and this in a world at cross-purposes with its Creator. To endure is to manifest Christian virtue, to be godly in character (1:6). Human perseverance is born out of the deep conviction that God perseveres on our behalf: the Lord wants none to perish. God takes into account human freedom and does not restrict it.
Here it is not Peter the theologian who is speaking; it is rather Peter the pastor and apostle. Paul was the acknowledged theologian: “just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him … speaking in [all his letters] of these matters—i.e., about the nature of salvation (sōtēr [GK 5400], a key word in the letter: 1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2, 18) and the long-suffering of God. It is true, Peter grants, that these mysteries are “hard to understand,” causing some to distort and pervert them for their own purposes.
3:15 / The delay in the second advent is due to two factors. The first has already been implied in Peter’s reference to the need for believers to live godly lives (v. 11), for this will speed the coming of Christ. Now he mentions the second reason for the delay, one he earlier spelled out in verse 9. The delay is due to the merciful goodness of the Lord’s patience in holding back the day of judgment, which gives every possible opportunity for unbelievers to come to a knowledge of salvation before it is too late.
That explanation of the delay in the Parousia harmonizes with the one put forward by our dear brother Paul (as, for example, in Rom. 2:4). Paul, and by implication Peter himself, was enabled to express such sentiments because they were made known to him from on high, rather than being a matter of personal guesswork: the apostle wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. That, as Peter delicately hints, is his own authority too.
How can we speed the day of God? (3:15–16)
Peter has already defended God’s apparent slowness as really demonstrating his patience (3:9). Now he defines the period of waiting as a time when salvation may be offered. He clearly thinks that this will not catch our attention, so he tells us to do the opposite of what the false teachers do. Using the same Greek word, he says that they make a mistake in the way they ‘understand’ God’s patience (3:9), but we are to bear in mind that this patience is for our benefit. Since Peter has already told us that this is a time when God is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (3:9), he obviously wants us to use the time we have at our disposal for evangelism. The false teachers will naturally have no such concern, for their rampant self-interest will serve only to ‘bring the way of truth into disrepute’ (2:2).
Christians have enormous difficulty in grasping the two points that although Jesus has left us a number of things to do, there is a clear order of priority in their relative importance. We easily attach greatest importance to the visible and the urgent, such as world hunger and social injustice. Peter has certainly told us that he expects us to demonstrate the Christian characteristics of ‘goodness’, ‘brotherly kindness’ and ‘love’ (1:5, 7). He wants us to be effective and productive in the world (1:8). But it is clear from what Peter has taught that the greatest need our world faces is its need for a Saviour on the day of judgment. That helps us to order our priorities, for everything we do will be laid bare and exposed to God’s scrutiny in the cosmic judgment. It may look foolish to assert that evangelism has a higher priority than people’s physical needs, and it is true that if we attend only to their souls and never to their bodies, we have misunderstood Peter and Jesus. But Peter wants us to avoid the other danger, which is much more natural; namely, to feed the body while letting the soul starve. The pull will be in that second direction, for we can stand shoulder to shoulder with men and women from the full range of races and beliefs in arranging a food aid programme. To human eyes it looks immensely impressive. But only Christians are able to see not simply the visible and the highly urgent, but also the invisible and the hugely important, and to attach priority to those areas. Only Christians can do God’s work of evangelism. Do we share Peter’s sense of urgency in our use of time, money, friendships and the things we pray for?
What saps the energy of the Christian who is keen to love in both words and actions is a diminished sense of urgency. Peter therefore underlines for one last time that the promise of Jesus’ return is of vital importance in the church today. He gives two reasons, which are variations on what he has written throughout his letter.
First, he wants us to be certain that the whole Bible bears witness to the promise of Jesus’ return. It is the message which he shares with our dear brother Paul.
For those who believe that this letter is a deliberate forgery, these words are decisive. ‘The writer rather ostentatiously stresses his assumed equality with the Apostle.’ The reason so many writers feel this problem is the supposed tension between Peter and Paul from the time of their disagreement in Antioch.33 Yet the idea that this one incident turned into a life-long jealousy is a mere guess. Even the Galatians material shows that each recognized the other as an apostle with a valid ministry. They shared a team member in Silas.35 It is difficult to conceive of a way in which Peter could have referred to Paul without incurring the critics’ displeasure here. There is certainly nothing unusual or anachronistic in any of his terms: brother was an accepted term for a fellow Christian worker; dear translates agapētos, which is once again a standard way of talking about fellow workers. What is ostentatious in this? It would have been much more ostentatious for Peter to talk about Paul as the next generation of Christians did, calling him ‘the blessed and glorious Paul’ (Polycarp), ‘the blessed Paul’ (Clement) or ‘the sanctified Paul … right blessed’ (Ignatius).38If this letter is from Peter’s hand, then, why should he want to refer to Paul here? Partly to assure his own readers that the most widely read Christian writer writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. Perhaps Paul had written especially to this group of Christians (Peter says that Paul wrote to you). But attempts to identify which of Paul’s letters is being referred to have failed, and in any case Peter’s point is that all Paul’s letters argue that Christians are to live in the light of the Lord’s return.
Peter and Paul are not just inspiring and clear-minded Christian leaders; they are inspired and authoritative apostles, and Peter puts Paul’s letters in the same category as the other Scriptures. Peter is not drawing a distinction between two sorts of writing here. In his mind, Paul’s letters are Scripture. This, from the pen of the man who said that ‘no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation’ (1:20), can mean only that he puts them in the same category as the Old Testament. Paul writes with God’s authority. This might seem a surprising point for a contemporary to make, but it is the authority that Paul himself claims for his message. Once again, Peter has said that the New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets bear equally inspired witness to the same promise of Jesus Christ’s return (1:16–21).
Secondly, Peter wants us to be certain that the unified biblical promise of Jesus’ return is the focus of united attack. Peter is the first to admit that Paul’s letters are not easy, for they contain some things that are hard to understand. Although they were written with the wisdom that God gave him, they seem to have been open to misunderstanding simply because they require hard work.43 (Perhaps we might feel the same about Peter’s letter!)
To misunderstand is one thing; to distort is quite another, and that is the problem Peter tackles. He uses a word from twisting rope or torturing on a rack, for people were pulling Paul out of shape in a deliberate desire to make him say something other than his clear intention. They are ignorant—which means not that they know nothing, but that they refuse instruction—and unstable, people who would lead us away from the ‘way of truth’, ‘the straight way’, ‘the way of righteousness’ (2:2, 15, 21), ‘the way which is substantially one and the same in the Old and the New’. The hallmark is not simply an antipathy to Paul but an antipathy to this theme, consistently presented in Scripture, for their abuse of him is merely a symptom of their abuse of the whole Bible.
As we would expect from Peter by now, the end result of mishandling the promise of Jesus’ return is destruction on the last day (cf. 2:1); Bible-twisters will not live in the expectation of his return. Peter shows that they shoulder responsibility for their fate, for they mishandle God’s promise to their own destruction.
There is a note of sober reality for us in all this as we take up the responsibility to handle God’s Word with integrity, honesty and a desire to seek out what it says. Parts of it may well be difficult to understand, and that is a reason for hard work and thinking, getting to grips with a whole Bible book rather than reading only our favourite verses, and checking what we think with other Christians. Peter wants us to know that serious Bible study requires effort. There is all the difference in the world, though, between finding the Bible difficult, and wilfully twisting it to say only what we find helpful or relevant or reasonable to believe. Where is the voice of God if he says only what we want him to say?
3:15–16. Peter borrowed the authority of the apostle Paul for his emphasis by reminding us that Paul, in his writings, has made the same point. Peter observed that Paul’s letters contain some things that are difficult to understand, but they still contain the same authority as the other Scriptures. Peter’s point of contact with Paul’s writings is simply this: all through Paul’s letters he, too, challenges Christians to live godly lives in light of the day of the Lord. That much is not difficult to understand. It could not be missed, unless deliberately. That is exactly what the false teachers have done. They have distorted or twisted the teaching of Paul, along with other parts of the Scriptures. Primarily, these teachers refused to submit their lifestyles to the scrutiny of Scripture, but instead twisted the Scriptures in order to condone their sinful lifestyles.
3:15 And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. His delay in judgment is to give men full opportunity to be saved. As we consider the multiplying wickedness of men, we often wonder how the Lord can put up with it any longer. His forbearance is astonishing. But there is a reason for it. He does not desire the death of the wicked. He longs to see people turn from their wicked ways and be saved.
As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. Several interesting points emerge in this allusion to Paul:
- First, Peter speaks of Paul as our beloved brother, and this in spite of the fact that Paul had publicly rebuked Peter in Antioch for acting insincerely (Gal. 2:11–21). Obviously Peter had accepted the rebuke humbly. We should all be able to accept correction without harboring animosities.
- Peter acknowledged that Paul was given divine wisdom in writing his Epistles. This is surely an intimation that Peter considered Paul’s writings to be divinely inspired.
- Peter’s readers had apparently read one or more of Paul’s Epistles. This may mean that the Epistles were addressed directly to them or that they were circulated in that area.
Which of Paul’s Letters says that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation? Romans 2:4 reads: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
3:15, 16 Note that Peter equates the letters of Paul with the rest of the Scriptures, indicating that Peter considered the apostle Paul’s writings to be the Word of God. Note that Peter considers Paul’s writings on the end times to be hard to understand. This should be a comfort to each of us who attempts to interpret the writings of Paul on the coming of Christ. Even Peter found them difficult. Because of this, however, Peter says some people who are untaught and unstable destroy themselves. Untaught refers to one whose mind is untrained and undisciplined in habits of thought. Unstable refers to one whose conduct is not properly established on the truths of God’s Word.
3:15. The Lord’s patience is because of His desire that people come to salvation (cf. v. 9). The seeming procrastination of the Second Coming, far from being negative inaction on God the Father’s part is rather a demonstration of His makrothymian (“long-suffering”). Now the world has time to repent, but this will not be so when “the day of judgment” (2:9; 3:7) comes. The Lord’s patience leads toward repentance, which is precisely the point Paul made in Romans 2:4, though this may or may not be the passage Peter had in mind (cf. comments on 2 Peter 3:16). Interestingly Peter called Paul our dear (agapētos, “beloved”; cf. vv. 1, 8, 14, 17) brother. Years before Paul had severely rebuked Peter (Gal. 2:11–14), but this did not sever their love and respect for each other.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 133–136). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 2 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 410). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (p. 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Lucas, R. C., & Green, C. (1995). The message of 2 Peter & Jude: the promise of His coming (pp. 149–153). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, pp. 143–144). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2303–2304). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1701). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Gangel, K. O. (1985). 2 Peter. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 877–878). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.