Because divine truth, which grows out of
God’s nature and character, never grows untrue and is really never “old,” it
is necessary to teach it again and again as long as it is still part of the
current divine arrangement (covenant). Because humans tend to forget or to
grow weak in faith, it is necessary for them to hear the truth again and
again. Some Christians had had enough time to be teaching others, but they
needed to be taught again some elementary things (Heb.
In a context where some willfully (and conveniently) forgot important truth
that could have stabilized them, the Lord’s apostle sought to remind the
brethren of truth they had earlier learned (2 Pet. 3:1-8).
How easy it is for lessons of the past to grow dim in our minds and to
exercise even less influence over our lives. Sincere minds can be stirred
up by reminders of what they need to retain; Peter thus reminded them in
both of his epistles of words spoken by the prophets and by the Lord through
his apostles. Against the background of some who had willfully forgotten, he
also challenged them not to forget (same word in verses 5 and 8, meaning
they “wished to forget”).
The principal reason for not forgetting
what we have learned is spiritual growth, the divine antidote to error and
apostasy (2 Pet. 3:17-18).
Observe Peter’s exhortation in these verses, where he clearly stated that
their knowledge could keep them from such dire results as he identified.
The first result is for one to be “carried away with the error of the
wicked”; and the second, resulting from the former, is falling from their
steadfastness. The error (wandering, straying from the straight path of
truth) of the wicked (lawless, unprincipled men) is here pictured as the
active influence in leading faithful disciples away from the Master. Such is
the inevitable course of all who turn from Christ’s
teaching to the wanderings of such false teachers as Peter warned about in
chapter two. They then fall from their former position of steadfastness in
the service of the Lord, having followed the counsel of those who deny the
Master who bought them (1 Pet. 2:1). One can fall from God’s grace
and be lost; otherwise such warnings as these and those of chapter two are
Why Do We Stray Today?
The same forces operate today as Peter
identified in his time. Truth still is essential for people to remain free
from sin and error. Those charged with teaching and watching for souls must
take their work seriously. There is no substitute for truth, and there is no
replacement for faithful men who will uphold truth at all times and against
all opposition. It is the easy course to pursue popularity or the approval
of men; it is the God-approved course to insist on the divine will and
divine pronouncements. What difference does it make whether men demand
something other than truth, when Christ will judge us in the last
day? In too many congregations there is a laxness about teaching truth in
unpopular matters. If it causes some to leave or others to reduce their
contributions, then the way of least resistance often is busily traveled. We
tend to give preference to those weak in faith and cowardly in courage over
the Lord of glory. We form our own strategy more along the lines of
compromise and tolerance rather than follow the strategy of our Commander-in-Chief.
Generations then grow up untaught. The result is straying and spiritual
Truth Is God’s Remedy
Parents, elders, preachers, and Bible class
teachers must develop a strong backbone, one that will not bend to the
pressures often exerted by weak brethren or the world. This is no defense
of ugliness, hate, spite, or rancor, all of which are sinful and instances
of the kind of straying that sometimes leads Christians away from the Lord.
Truth must move both the heart and the mouth. On the other hand, it is
call for men of courage to arise and demand that truth be lived, heard,
believed, and obeyed. Like the prophets of old, we must remain true to God,
even and especially when others are manifesting weakness.
When the world would seduce us all by its
stress on the secular, we must remain spiritually minded people, counseled
by God and guided by truth. When the denominational world of false religion
would lure us by its emphasis on peace, harmony, and the irenic spirit, we
must dedicate ourselves anew as soldiers of Christ
in the fight against sin in all forms. When current popular religious
literature would advise that we reduce our emphasis to the bare minimum of
doctrine, upon which all “Christians”
could agree, we must remember that our loyalty is not to “Christians,” but
to Christ. When weak brethren would
discourage our speaking the truth too loudly, we must shout it from the
housetops in the love that we must show for God, truth, and others. When
some would discourage our teaching on unpopular subjects, we must remind the
brethren of what the Lord still says.
We might find ourselves alone and lonely in
such circumstances, but the Lord will never forsake us (Heb. 13:6).
We might find ourselves lacking support, both moral and financial; but the
Lord will provide for those who love and serve Him. We might find
ourselves in distress over the departure of many, but there will be a
remnant in His service. We might even find ourselves being used and abused
by people lacking in faith, but we will enjoy the good company of the
apostles of Christ (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
When We Fail to
Indoctrinate in Truth
While some would refuse to use the word
“indoctrinate,” I would defend its use on the basis of Peter’s insistence of
reminding brethren of matters of truth. Teaching on such a matter once
does not usually finish the job. It is rare for attitudes and behavior to
change so quickly. We must refuse to yield to the popular way or to the
whims of untaught men. Spiritually mature people must exert a godly
influence by insisting that truth—all truth— only truth have its place in
the lives, teaching, work, and worship of God’s people. While Peter
described it as “the present truth” (“truth which is in you” in the ASV),
he nevertheless tried to give saints a remembrance of such truth (2 Pet.
When some object to studying something that was studied at some time in the
past, just remember what Peter wrote about these matters. Remember that each
generation needs to learn the truth. One untaught generation departs from
the Lord, because truth is not there in the heart to stay the digression.
Remember that those already taught sometimes did not learn well or forgot
because of few reminders. The world is ever present, competing with truth
for a place of prominence in the lives of God’s people. The basic teaching
of the New Testament way needs to taught and re-taught.
The congregation that goes long without such teaching will stray, and the
individual who goes long without it will lead the way into error.
Current practices of members’ “testifying”
before the assembly about what the Lord has done for them, calling for more
“edifying” services, making the church more “consumer-oriented”
tailoring the message of the gospel to “the un-churched,” manifest a lack
of teaching and conviction in truth. This writer fears that woeful
ignorance and weak faith, its logical offspring, are quickly overtaking
truth as major determinants in the faith and practice of people who once
found stability and steadfastness in truth. The testimony that is needed is
divine testimony, not what some weak, untaught brother calls “my testimony.”
The Lord’s appointments for worship and service do edify when hearts are
earnestly seeking the Lord in His truth. The unchanging gospel of Christ
is yet the need of the church and of the world. Anybody looking for
edification, teaching, or practice elsewhere than the New Testament is
looking in the wrong place and for the wrong thing. It is usually true that
if people look for something, even in the wrong place or from the wrong
source, they find it.
There is no reason to excuse teaching the
fundamentals of faith in the New Testament. If the Lord taught them, there
is prima facie evidence that man needs them and no excuse is needed to teach
them. It is a must that we do so. Brother, are you teaching such
basics as follow in the list below? This is not a creed or even a complete
list, but some items that are woefully neglected in many quarters.
The authority of God and
Christ in the world and over our lives
The verbal inspiration of the
The direct creation of man by
How the Scriptures authorize
(including the silence of the Scriptures)
The role of Jesus’ life in
preparing him as a sacrifice and preparing for the coming kingdom, realized
in his reign announced in Acts 2 at the beginning of the church
The one church (all aspects)
Purity in the Christian’s
heart and life
The role of baptism in
The two covenants
NT teaching on marriage,
divorce, and remarriage
The coming judgment and two
destinies—heaven or hell
Please do not assume that people already
understand these matters. Some do, but many do not! Those who do understand
need reminding, and those do not need to learn them. Teach old lessons even
at the risk of accusations of indoctrinating people. Approach them in new
ways, but teach what people need. People can be saved and go to heaven
without some of the pabulum that is offered, but they cannot long survive
the onslaught of Satan without the milk and solid food of God’s Word. You
will help people go to heaven by such teaching. You will be partly
responsible for their going to hell if you fail to teach them.