By Mike Willis
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yes, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance (2 Pet. 1:12-15).
Peter was determined to refresh the memory of those to whom his second epistle was addressed, calling to their minds the fundamental truths of the gospel. He was motivated by two imminent things: (a) his impending death and (b) the false teachers who were circulating in their area. Consequently, he wanted to remind the Christians there that they should stay committed to the gospel which they received from God. These words of the apostle remind us of these important lessons:
1. The gospel message is the same for every generation. Peter needed to remind his generation of the fundamental truths of the gospel because the one gospel was designed for every generation of men. The Lord did not start the church and leave its members to adjust the message to fit men of every generation of time. Rather, he gave a revelation which was adequate to fit men of all time.
The gospel which was revealed through the Holy Spirit to the apostles contains “a things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:34). Through it, one can escape the corruption which is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4). By it, one can become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). By giving all diligence to add the Christian graces to one’s life, he can be granted an abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11). Hence, the gospel which was revealed in the first century is able to save one’s soul and give him an inheritance in heaven.
The gospel has been committed to us with the charge to pass it down to the next generation in its pristine purity. The “glorious gospel” was “committed to my trust” (1 Tim. 1:11) by a generation before me. I am to “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me” and to “keep” that “good thing which was committed unto me” (2 Tim. 1:13-14). “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). I need to pass the same gospel which came from the lips of Jesus and the pens of the apostles down to my children and those of their generation.
We do not need a new gospel, a new message, to fit the twenty-first century. Rather, we need to be reminded of the one gospel given to us through Jesus Christ.
Some have belittled the gospel, condemning Christians for being “backward looking” instead of “progressive.” The criticism should be a compliment. We do look back to a once-for-all event which happened on Calvary as the sacrifice for sins. We do this each Lord’s day in the Lord’s supper. We do look back toward an all-sufficient revelation to guide us in determining what is sin, how the church should worship, what is its work and organization. Those who turn their eyes away from that revelation which was given through Jesus deny by their actions, if not by their words, that the revelation is sufficient to meet the needs of all men of all time.
2. We remind men of the gospel because of the tendency toforget. Peter was aware that his audience knew the things of which he was reminding them and that they already had them in their possession. Nevertheless, he was aware that some forget that they were purged from their sins (2 Pet. 1:9). Their minds needed to be stirred to remember the price paid for the cleansing of their sins.
3. We remind men of the gospel because of the new generation which is growing up among us. Though the gospel has been preached to the previous generation, we need to remember that a new generation is growing up among us who has never heard that gospel. A first grade teacher teaches the A-B-C’s and numbers every year because she has a new group of students every year. We need to preach the fundamental truths of the gospel for the same reason. Our children are not grounded in its truth simply because they were born to Christian parents. They have to hear and learn the gospel.
As a young preacher, I did not recognize these points. I thought, “I do not want to preach on the plan of salvation (faith, repentance, confession, baptism), the oneness of the church, the worship, work and organization of the church, etc. because everyone has already heard that. I want to preach other parts of the gospel.” My brother Cecil redirected my thinking. In studying (especially in the reading of debates) these subjects, I learned that I did not know nearly so much about these subjects as I thought I did. In preaching these subjects, I received comments that demonstrated to me that the audiences had not heard too much on these subjects. Some made comments that indicated these truths had never before registered with them (although I am confident those before me had preached on these subjects in the local congregations), others made comments that they had not heard sermonson these topics in a long time. I am convinced that we are neglecting to do what Peter did – to remind men of the fundamental truths of the gospels in order that every generation may be grounded in them.
4. We remind men of the gospel because of the active work of false teachers. Peter knew that there would be false teachers infiltrating the churches, even as there had been false prophets in Israel (2 Pet. 2:1). The only security he had against the influence of these false teachers was a taught congregation.
Men sometimes err in “protecting” the congregation from the knowledge that there are controversies among the brethren. Some have the mistaken idea that they should shelter the young Christians and new converts from any knowledge that there are controversies in the church. Hence, they do not want them to know about or read such periodicals as Guardian of Truth because they contain controversy.
Beloved brethren, the only security we have to protect a church from apostasy is to teach them the truth of the gospel. A congregation is protected from using instruments of music in worship, not when they do not know that some believe that using mechanical instruments in worship is pleasing to God, but when they know there are false teachers among us who teach that using mechanical instruments in worship is pleasing to God, the arguments they will use, the answers to those arguments, and the men who are teaching the false doctrine. Such a congregation is protected from those who would introduce mechanical instruments of music in worship.
A congregation is protected from institutionalism, the sponsoring church apostasy, and social gospel when it knows that there are false teachers among us who practice these things, defend them in debate as acts of righteousness, and ostracize those who oppose them. It is protected when it knows the arguments that are used to promote these apostasies, the answers to them and the men who are teaching them.
A congregation is protected from problems on divorce and remarriage when it knows that there are men among us who teach that aliens are not amenable to God’s law of marriage; that one can divorce and remarry for any reason, confess the sin of divorce and continue living with his second (or third or fourth) mate; that the guilty party in a divorce for fornication has the right to remarry; etc. It is protected when it knows the arguments that are used to promote these apostasies, the answers to them and the men who are teaching them.
The eldership and/or preacher who “protects” the congregation from apostasy by not informing them of the errors which they will confront hastens the day when apostasy shall infiltrate the congregation and increases the amount of damage that it will do. An untaught and uninformed congregation is a vulnerable congregation! Peter did not want the Christians in his area to be vulnerable; consequently, he reminded them of the fundamental truths of the gospel and warned them of the false teachers who would come among them.
We cannot improve on the course which the Apostle Peter followed. Let us devote ourselves to reminding this generation of the truthfulness of the gospel, warn them of the danger which false teachers pose to their souls, and equip them to stand against them. Let us not look for a better way – a way which preaches a non-offensive gospel and avoids all controversy. This “better way” will not protect the church from apostasy!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 14, pp. 418, 438
July 20, 1989