The Patience of God (2 Peter 3:8-15)
I have always been extremely time conscious—if I don’t show up half an hour early, I’m late.
When I was an adjunct professor at Ohio Valley University, many of my students played basketball. OVU was playing West Virginia State University, just a few minutes from where we lived. Since I love basketball, I suggested a family outing to watch my students—the girls played first, and the boys played immediately after the girls. We had two young boys, we got in traffic, and we had trouble finding a parking spot, so we were five or so minutes late to the first game.
I was upset and didn’t want to get out of the car. I thought since we were late, we might as well go back home. Tammy wasn’t having any of it. She, the boys, and I had all been looking forward to those games, and she told me in no uncertain terms we were going to the games, even if we were a few minutes late. She was right, and I was wrong. I’ve mellowed out a whole lot, but I still have a hard time being late.
Maybe you’re a punctual person and your spouse isn’t. Maybe you aren’t really concerned about what time you show up as long as it’s in the “ballpark.” Maybe you guys are patient, but when your wife is shopping in the mall and you’re waiting and waiting and waiting on a bench, you begin to be impatient. Ladies, maybe you get impatient when your husband doesn’t text or call to let you know he’ll be late, and you have supper just about ready.
Some folks in the first century thought God was late. Jesus had said he would return to this earth, but it’s been years and Jesus still hasn’t shown up—“What is taking so long?” the early Christians were asking. Even during Jesus’s ministry, there was an expectation the end would come in the very near future:
- James and John asked Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mk 10:37). They thought Jesus’s glory would be in their lifetime and they, thus, needed to get their names in the hat, so to speak.
- After his Resurrection, the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They misunderstood the kingdom, but they still thought the end had come.
Peter knew that as time went on some would begin to doubt that Jesus was really coming back. Notice what he wrote: 2 Peter 3:3-4.
In response to such thinking, Peter said, “Wait just a minute. Do you want to know why the end hasn’t come yet?” “Our Lord’s patience means salvation.”
Scripture (2 Peter 3:8-10)
Peter alluded to Psalm 90:4: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Some want to take this verse right out of context and apply it to the days of creation. But Peter used Psalm 90:4 to say that God stands outside of time and reckons time differently than we do. Thus, when the Lord says the Second Coming will come quickly, God speaks on his terms, not ours.
The reason God’s “quickly” doesn’t correspond to ours is that he “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish.” Notice the personal nature of God’s patience—He isn’t just being patient with so-and-so down the street, but he is being patient toward you. It’s not just that God cared about the scoffers Peter mentioned in verse 3, but he cared for the original readers of Peter’s epistle. God even cares for you this morning.
Peter wrote to Christians, and God was delaying judgment to give these Christians an opportunity to repent. Apparently, these Christians were not all they needed to be. Peter told them they “ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Pet 3:11). He told them to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Pet 3:14).
God doesn’t wish that any should perish. God doesn’t want a single person to go to hell and suffer the eternal destruction of their souls.
Rather than seeing his creatures cast into an eternal, devil’s hell, God wishes that all would come to repentance. The Greek term for “repentance” Peter used here refers to a change of thinking. The idea is that one changes his mind about sin and then carries out that change of mind in a change of life.
The day of the Lord will come. “The day of the Lord” was used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the day God brought wrath against his people. Obviously, here “the day of the Lord” refers to the day of judgment
Notice that Peter said the day of the Lord will come. God has been patient with us, but his patience will not delay judgment forever—One day judgment is going to come upon the world.
That day will come like a thief. Jesus told us the same thing: Matthew 24:42-44. That day will come suddenly, no signs, no warning. It will be here before we know what’s taking place.
The elements will be destroyed with fire. This earth and everything on it will be burned up: “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Pet 3:12).
“Our Lord’s patience means salvation.” Because God is patient with us and delaying the day of judgment, we can be saved. Peter asked, “What kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Pet 3:11). Let’s answer that question.
Because our Lord’s patience means salvation, you must SEPARATE from sin.
“You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Pet 3:11).
A holy life is separate from sin: “Dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor 7:1). A godly life lives like God: “As he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15-16).
What sin is in your life? In what activities do you participate which violate the holy will of God? What must you do to give up that sin? Commit this very day to giving up your every sin! If the elders or I can help you live a holy and godly life, please let us know!
Because our Lord’s patience means salvation, you must SPEED the day’s coming.
“You look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pet 3:12).
How do we speed the coming day of God? God has delayed that great day because “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9); in context, two things allow me to speed up Jesus’s second coming:
- I share the gospel with others so they can come to repentance.
- I make sure I myself need no repentance.
If we bring people to repentance and if we ourselves come to repentance, God has no reason for further delay.
Sharing our faith is an important responsibility Jesus has given us:
- “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).
- “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:46-47).
Who in your circle of influence needs to hear the story of Jesus? Find a way this week to take the gospel to that person. Maybe you offer a Bible correspondence course. Maybe you send them a sermon. Maybe you invite them to worship. Maybe you ask the elders or me to go with you to visit. Maybe you tell them your story—how you were lost in sin, met Jesus, and found grace and life eternal. Take the message of Jesus to one person this week and speed the coming of the day of the Lord Jesus.
Continue to live a holy life so that God needs to give you no further time for repentance.
Because our Lord’s patience means salvation, you SEEK the day.
“In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
The Christian looks forward to the day Jesus comes again: “We wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13). For the Christian, the Second Coming marks a new beginning—a life in the Paradise of God where sickness, death, and sin can no longer touch us.
Spend some time this week thinking about heaven. What will be the greatest thing about heaven for you? What joy do you anticipate when you first see the face of our God? What troubles do you look forward to laying down? Whom do you look forward to seeing? What treasure does heaven hold for you?
Because of God’s patience, you can see heaven, for “our Lord’s patience means salvation.” God is being patient with you this morning. Have you appropriately responded to his patience?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.