by Steven Chan
Towards the end of his life on earth, our beloved apostle Peter was concerned with the continuing spiritual well-being of the brethren. He wrote in his second epistle:”13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.”
- There is a need for us to be “stirred up”.
In Heb 10:23-25, the Bible says: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
One purpose for our assembling together is to “stir up” one another unto further love and good works through mutual exhortations. When we are missing from the assembly of fellow brethren, then we lose the opportunity of ‘stirring up other brethren’ unto love and good works, as well as we ourselves not being ‘stirred up’.
When we are not ‘stirred up’, we run the ‘risk of drifting’ into spiritual apathy and indifference –not caring about the work that the Lord has entrusted to us to do. More tragically, we may drift into ‘unbelief’: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:12-13)
The Bible warned in Heb 2:1: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”
The danger of ‘drifting away’ is that we would no longer be connected with the body of believers, the church, who are designed by God to keep us spiritually ‘strong’ and ‘safe’ (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:12-27).
In order for us “not (to be) lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom 12:11), we need to be constantly ‘stirred up’. If we are absent from the various meetings of the congregations, then how are we going to be stirred up?
When we are at our assemblies, let us make the effort to “stir up” one another through our active participation in the singing of hymns and spiritual songs, teaching and admonishing one another (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), prayers for one another (James 5:16), sharing of the Word of God that is able to build us up in our faith (Acts 20:32) and speaking words of exhortation to one another (Heb 10:25). The ‘stirring up’ is not to be expected only from the teacher/preacher; but from everyone in the assembly. We are members one of another (Rom 12:5; I Cor 12:12)
- We are to be ‘stirred up’ by way of reminders.
Some things that the apostle wanted to remind us are:-
- That according to God’s divine power, He “has given to us all things that pertainto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises.” (2 Pet 1:3-4).
God has “given us”. This echoes the sentiment of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave…” He gave us even while we yet sinners (Rom 5:8).
When we ‘drift away’ it is because we no longer believe/accept/appreciate His gift for us. According to Heb 10:29, by rejecting His gift, we have “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace”.
We need to be reminded that when one rejects God’s gift of salvation, then “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:26-27).
What He has given us “pertains life and godliness”. God gave us life through/in His Son.
We need to be reminded that if we reject God’s gift of life for us because our unbelief, then we deem God a liar: “he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:10-13).
- That the apostles “did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Pet 1:6).
We need to be always reminded, lest we forget, that Jesus Christ actually came down from heaven and lived among the Jews in Jerusalem for some 33 years, at the beginning of the first century, during the Roman Empire. The fact of His presence in Jerusalem at that time is a matter of historical record. He was tried before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate – and the fact of the existence of the Pontius Pilate is also a well-established historical fact. Apart from the Gospel accounts, the Jewish Historian testified in AD 93 in his book entitled, “Jewish Antiquities”:
“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”
We need to be reminded that the account concerning the life and teachings of Jesus is not a fable. It is a matter of historical record. When we forget the fact that Jesus lived, taught, died and was raised from the dead (as His tomb was empty as evidence of His resurrection) and ascended into heaven, then we are likely to drift away from the faith.
- That just as “there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, andbring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Pet 1:1-3)
We need to reminded that we should not be surprised or be discouraged when we come across those who teach erroneously secretly or otherwise. The challenge of having to deal with those who do not teach according to the ‘way of truth’ will always be there. That’s why our Lord issued the warning very early in His ministry in Matt 7:15-16: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”
More specifically, there will be scoffers raising issues concerning the promised Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet 3:1-3).
His reminder is that in the face of those who questioned or raised doubts about the promised Coming of the Lord, we must remember what was spoken to us by the prophets and also by the apostles. The fact that we are reminded to remember what was spoken in the past by the prophets and by the apostles, indicate to us that one should not expect to have future/later prophets or apostles or so-called “men moved by the Holy Spirit” today to reveal or testify of the truth of the gospel! We should not pay heed to the words of “those who spoke after” the prophets and the apostles! There is no future revelation of the truth after all the truth has been revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and written down for our understanding (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor 4:6; Gal 1:6-9; Eph 3:3-5; Jude 3; Rev 22:18-19). Today, we can only say “it is written” or “have you not read” just like Jesus did in Matt 4:4, 7, 10; 22:31. The bible does not authorize anyone today to claim that the Spirit is revealing new truths to him or is speaking through him.
The truth is that Jesus revealed the words/terms of the New Covenant to His apostles, and He promised them that He would send the Holy Spirit to bring to their remembrance all that He had taught them, and also to lead them into all truth (John 14:16; 16:13). So, as the apostles went forth to preach the Word (Mark 16:20) and to bear witness of the truth taught by Jesus, God confirmed the Word through signs, wonders and miracles through the Holy Spirit (Heb 2:3-4). Now that the Word of the New Covenant has been ‘delivered once for all time’ (Jude 3) and has been confirmed (Heb 2:3-4), no one can add to it, or subtract from it (Rev 22:18-19) without suffering punishment from God.
Brethren, we will do well to always remember the exhortation of our beloved apostle Peter of the need to continually ‘stir up’ one another unto faith, love and good works, by way of reminding one another of the truth of God’s word concerning the exceedingly great and precious promises of God given by God through Jesus Christ – that eternal life is in His Son. Let none of us drift away from this glorious hope in Christ.