2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
The wicked frequently wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction (The New Topical Textbook, subheading under the main heading “The Scriptures,” page 240).
Peter is, in context, speaking of Paul’s letters or epistles, which Peter accounts to be Scripture (as evidenced by his statement, “as they do also the other scriptures”). Peter had just written that we should be “diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Paul teaches these very truths in his letters. Using a good source of cross references will lead to the passages in Paul’s letters that Peter could be referring to.
For some, in Peter’s day as well as ours, there are things which are hard to understand in Paul’s letters. One of the issues Peter is addressing is the danger of moral apostasy. Some had taken parts of Paul’s message and given those parts a wrong interpretation (see Romans 3:8, where Paul comments that this was taking place). One of the falsehoods both Paul and Peter were confronting is the notion that because we are saved by grace apart from works, it does not matter if we keep on sinning, because God’s grace in Christ will cover it all, so we can freely live as we please. That is known as antinomianism.
It is a very prevalent doctrine among some Christians today too. Antinomianism is a term that literally means “against law.” The idea is, since we are saved by grace, we have nothing to do with law. Since we have nothing to do with law, we are not required to obey it. It is the wrong inference drawn from a misunderstanding of what is meant by our freedom from the law, our liberty in Christ. The title of a good Gospel song is “Free from the Law.” Antinomians have taken this Biblical idea to an extreme.
Some people who have fallen into the antinomian error would even question the possibility of moral apostasy. Some supposedly Bible believing Christians do not believe in the possibility of apostasy at all, moral or doctrinal. The New Testament is filled with warnings against apostasy, but these are either ignored, or are explained away. Most Evangelical Christians will say and teach that if someone appears to have fallen away, they were never saved in the first place, and they cite 1 John 2:19 to make that case. They are driven to that mistaken application by the necessities of their doctrinal system, Calvinism or a weaker variant, for they believe “Once Saved, Always Saved.” But this use of 1 John 2:19 falls into the errors of (1) taking a verse out of its evident historical context; (2) trying to fit all situations into one verse–overgeneralizing and so making the verse apply to more than it really does. By taking such a stance, many Christians who believe the Bible have fallen into the fatal mistake of denying one doctrine (the very real possibility of apostasy) to affirm another (the unconditional eternal security of the believer). In this case, they deny a true doctrine to affirm a false one! And Peter clearly warns us that to do this is to court our own destruction.
The Bible does not teach unconditional eternal security, or “Once Saved, Always Saved,” at all! What the Bible does teach is the absolute eternal security of the believer, not the unbeliever.
There are other ways of wresting the Scripture to our own destruction. It is a very serious matter, even dangerous matter, to fasten our belief-system to a man-made doctrinal scheme, such as Calvinism, or Romanism, or Arianism–perhaps almost any “ism”!
I have more recently learned of another serious example of wresting the Scriptures. Having a mistaken concept of the Atonement of Christ plagues all of us because almost without exception, all English Bibles have been translated from the Hebrew and especially the Greek originals to reflect the Penal Satisfaction Theory of the Atonement, a theological construct which may be traced to Anselm and Augustine. This theory was borrowed whole by the Protestant Reformers from Roman Catholicism. This is one of the areas in theology where the Protestant Reformers did not go far enough in their Reformation. Another area where the Reformers by and large were totally in the dark is the subject of Bible prophecy.
Now, I cannot give you Chapter and Verse for my idea that God is not going to require us to pass a seminary level final test on systematic theology to be able to enter His heaven, but since the New Testament nowhere suggests our need to pass such a test, the simple faith represented by Paul’s response to the question of the Philippian Jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” still has the valid and simple answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30, 31).
But this does not in any way excuse any of us from the responsibility to check everything we believe and have been taught against the Scripture, just as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.
For those who desire to DIG DEEPER into this subject:
(1) Consult the cross references given in Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible on page 1470 for 2 Peter 3:16.
(2) Consult the cross references given in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on page 1488 or in Logos 5 Bible software for 2 Peter 3:16.
(3) Lacking access to those two resources, consult the cross references for this passage as I have developed them as given below:
2 Peter 3:16. in all. The Pauline Epistles were by this time become the common property of all the churches. The “all” seems to imply they were now completed (JFB). See on 1 P 1:1. speaking. +*Ro 8:19. *1 Cor 15:21, 23, 24. *Col 3:4. +*1 Th 4:14 18. *1 Th 5:1 10. *1 Tim 6:14. *2 Tim 1:7, 8. +*2 Tim 4:1, 8, 18. *He 9:28. 10:23-39. of these things. ver. 2 Peter 3:14. 2 K ch. 1. Col 3:4. 1 Th 4:13. 5:11. 2 Th 2:16. some things. Notice Peter says some things, not all. The difficulty some readers and interpreters find in understanding parts of Scripture is no argument against perspicuity, the doctrine that Scripture declares it is understandable (Ps 119:130) to the ordinary reader (T#1110—1122). This furnishes no basis for those denominations, churches, and religious organizations, even some false cults (some of which appeal to Mt 16:16 or Mt 24:45 to assert their authority), to claim they are the exclusive source for authoritative teaching of the Bible. Peter warns, in context, that those he speaks of are deficient in their knowledge and have a character problem. He urges us not to be led away with the error of the wicked. We are urged to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 P 3:18). The only source of this knowledge is the 27 primary documents we have in the New Testament. We need to make it our habit to regularly study the Scriptures, and feed on God’s Word (+1 P 2:2n). Ps 119:97. hard to be understood. Gr. dusnoētos (S#1425g, only here), difficult of perception (Strong). 1 K 10:1. Pr 1:6. +**Pr 28:5. Jn 6:60. Ro 3:5-8, 20-28. 4:15. 5:20. 6:1. 7:4-11. 8:29, 30. 9:18 20. 11:33. 14:1-6 with Acts 15:29. 1 Cor 2:13, 14. Ga 3:10. 2 Th 2:1-12. 2 Tim 2:17. *He 5:10, 11. 6:4-9. unlearned. Gr. amathēs (S#261g, only here), ignorant (Strong); lacking in the moral qualities of a balanced judgment (Strachan). This is the central issue, the major problem: people who ought to know better are virtually Biblically illiterate. Jn 17:3. Ac 4:13. 1 Cor 14:16. 2 Tim 2:23. He 5:11, 12. 6:9n. 1 P 2:2n. unstable. Gr. astēriktos (S#793g, only here and 2 P 2:14). Refers more to conduct, those whose habits are not fully trained and established (see Strachan). 2 P 2:14. Ge 49:4. 2 Tim 3:5 7. +*James 1:8. wrest. Gr. strebloō (S#4761g, only here), to wrench, that is, (specifically) to torture (by the rack), but only figuratively to pervert (Strong). T#1107. Ex 23:2, 6. Dt 16:19. 2 S 22:27g. Ps 56:5. +*Je 8:8mg. Je 23:36. Hab 1:4. Mt 4:5, 6. 15:3-6. 19:3-10. 22:29. Ro 8:21. 1 Cor 5:9-11. +*2 Cor 2:17. 3:17. +*2 Cor 4:2. Ga 5:13. 2 Tim 2:18. 1 P 2:8. as they do. Is 28:16. the other. Gr. loipoi (S#3062g, Mt 22:6), remaining ones (Strong). The Greek word has reference to others of the same kind. Mt 15:3, 6. 22:29. *Mt 25:11. *Ac 2:37. *Ro 1:13. *1 Cor 9:5. *2 Cor 12:13. *Ga 2:13. *Phil 4:3. +*1 Tim 5:18. +*2 Tim 3:16. scriptures. Gr. graphē (S#1124g, Mt 21:42). Note that St. Paul’s epistles are called “Scriptures” (CB). In its fifty occurrences, this term is always applied to the Old and New Testament sacred writings. Men in each Church having miraculous discernment of spirits (1 J 4:1; 2 Th 2:2n) would have prevented any uninspired writing from being put on a par with the OT word of God; the apostles’ lives also were providentially prolonged, Paul’s and Peter’s at least to thirty-four years after Christ’s resurrection, John’s to thirty years beyond them, so that fraud in the canon is out of the question. The three first Gospels and Acts are included in “the other Scriptures” (1 Tim 5:18), and perhaps all the NT books, save John and Revelation, written later (see JFB). 2 P 1:20, 21. +Mt 21:42. **1 Cor 14:37. Col 4:16. 1 Th 5:27. +**2 Tim 3:15-17. 1 P 2:6. unto their own. 2 P 2:1. +*Phil 3:19. 1 P 2:8. Jude 1:4. destruction. Gr. apōleia (S#684g, Mt 7:13), ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal) [Strong]. ver. 2 P 3:6, *2 P 3:7, 9. 2 P 2:1, 3. Dt 4:2. 12:32. Is 28:13. 1 Tim 5:15. Re 22:19.