Rev. Stewart is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland. This series is being reprinted with permission from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship website, http://www.cprf.co.uk/ Volume IX, Issues 20-21.
So far we have seen that God-breathed Scripture is absolutely sure and unbreakable, and that it shall never pass away. How then are sinful men going to avoid submitting to it? Many try to ignore it. Others attack it, calling it “cunningly devised fables” (II Peter 1:16). Others argue that the Bible’s meaning is simply a matter of personal opinion: “That’s what you say it means!” Many try all three of these methods to avoid obeying God’s Word. Moreover, Peter even writes of these who are “unlearned and unstable” who “wrest” or twist the writings of Paul and “the other scriptures” (II Peter 3:15-16).
The “other scriptures” (16) certainly include the inspired Old Testament. Paul’s epistles (15) are also Scripture, placed on par with the Old Testament as divine writings, since Peter refers to the Old Testament as “other scriptures” (16). The Old Testament, all the inspired letters Paul wrote, and indeed the remaining New Testament books constitute the sacred Scriptures. The 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books are the product of divine “wisdom” (15) given to God’s chosen penmen. Wisdom is that which perfectly adapts to reality, and all Scripture perfectly accords with the reality of the sovereign Triune God and His redemption in Christ Jesus. The 66 books of the Scriptures, as the product of Jehovah’s infinite wisdom, are a perfect unity and contain no mistakes. For what part have errors in God’s wisdom?
There are, however, difficult parts in God’s Word—in the Old Testament, in Paul’s epistles and in the rest of the New Testament—for there are “some things hard to be understood” in the Scriptures (16). This does not oppose the orthodox doctrine of the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. “Hard to be understood” does not mean impossible to be understood. Furthermore, “some things” are “hard to be understood;” not all or even most things; merely some things. This means that most of the Bible is not hard to understand. As the Psalmist says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). Thus “ordinary” believers—and not just church officers or those with theological degrees—can and must read the Scriptures in the confidence that most of Scripture can be understood. There are some hard bits, but do not let them discourage you. Interpret the hard parts in the light of the easier parts. Study more diligently. Pray over the Word for divine illumination. Use commentaries or ask an orthodox church teacher.
The infinitely wise God included some hard parts in Scripture in order to serve our salvation. These difficulties subdue our pride and stir us up to pray and search the Word. Moreover, we often only esteem that which we obtain with difficulty. God also uses the difficult sections of His Word to snare the wicked, for they twist especially the hard parts of Scripture to their own destruction (16).
II Peter 3:16 speaks of “unlearned and unstable” people who “wrest” the Scriptures “unto their own destruction.” The man who wrests Scripture is not neutral; he comes with a preconceived false view. He does not want God’s Word to condemn him and/or others, so he twists it. He wants Scripture to support his views, so he twists it.
The Greek word used here means to torture. Scripture is tortured, like a man put on the rack, in order to force it to say what the torturers want it to say. Picture a cruel tormentor in a torture chamber: “If you do not say what I want you to say, I will tighten the thumbscrew or suspend you from the rafters.” The Scripture twister—the spiritual equivalent of the Grand Inquisitor—likewise tortures the Word of God in order to extort a confession from it. By misquoting a text or ignoring vital words, by disregarding the context or the analogy of faith or the clearer passages which speak on the same subject, the Scripture twister perverts the Word of God. Violence is done to the divine oracles out of hatred for the truth in order to serve the lie.
The Scripture twisters of II Peter 3 twisted God’s Word in its doctrine of the last things: Christ’s second coming, the final judgment and the renewal of heaven and earth. In denying the Christian hope, the Scripture twisters destroy the incentive to godliness provided by Christ’s return (11-14). Thus their false doctrine serves their sinful “lusts” (3)—always an attraction of heresy. These false teachers hold the wicked world-view of the ungodly world that “all things continue as they were from the beginning” (4). They oppose the worldwide flood and find it hard to believe that Christ will return on the clouds of heaven to purge the world with fire (7, 10-12). Moreover, the godly lifestyle required of Christ’s followers is too cramped for their fleshly desires.
Thus these heretics resort to Scripture twisting. They dismiss the gospel accounts of Christ’s power and glory at His transfiguration as “cunningly devised fables” (1:16), for the transfiguration points to His glorious coming (1:16-18). They twist Paul’s letters and the “other scriptures” of Old Testament and New Testament (3:15-16), especially those parts which speak of the end of the world. The narrative of the flood is “willingly” ignored (5). The final “judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (7) is an unpalatable truth, as is the doctrine that “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (10). “What about our beloved sins!” their flesh cries out. Thus, not content to have any part of God’s Word oppose them, they twist Old Testament and New Testament—gospel, epistle and prophecy—to fit their sinful views and their carnal lifestyles. Many today do likewise. Next time (DV), we will consider the ways in which they twist the Scriptures.