“Some things hard to understand” 2 Pet 3:16

By Steven Chan

1. Just because some things are hard to understand does not mean that these things are not Scriptures. The apostle Peter referred to these “hard to understand” things as “Scriptures”: “which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Pet 3:16). Peter effectively categorized Paul’s writings as “scriptures” when he observed that the “untaught and unstable people” also did the same (i.e. twist) to “the rest of the Scriptures”.

2. Just because some things are hard to understand does not give one a license to “twist” or have the liberty to say or claim whatever one wants them or prefers them to mean.  There is a such a thing as “twisting” what is written to mean something not intended by the original writer, especially when taking it out of its immediate context, or the overall context of the Bible. The sum or totality of God’s word is truth (Psa 119:160)

3. “Twisting” hard to understand Scriptures will result in the destruction of its proponents.  Some want to believe that God’s grace will cover such “misunderstandings” of the “hard to understand” things. But clearly, while Peter urged us all to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18), he also said that the attempt to “twist” the “hard to understand” scriptures would lead to destruction implying that God’s grace will not cover such errors unless repented of. 

4. What do we do when we come across some “hard to understand” passages of Scriptures? In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, he did not understand who Isaiah was writing about in Isa 53:7-8. He did not try to “twist” the passage to apply to whoever he thought appropriate. He sought to understand its meaning, acknowledging that he did not understand it. It’s alright to confess that some passages/things are hard to understand. But if one goes ahead to “twist” them to teach things that are not consistent with the general tenor of the Scriptures, then one is at risk of “destruction”.

5. It should be noted that Peter did not say that these things were impossible to understand. He merely observed that they were “hard to understand”.  These “hard to understand” things posed a problem to “the untaught and unstable” – not to those who were “taught and stable”.  One may recall that Priscilla and Aquila (having been taught and stable) were able to take Apollos “aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

6. Sometimes things are hard to understand because the readers have “become dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11) and the “hearts of this people have grown dull” (Matt 13:15). Only those who have “noble and good heart” (Luke 8:15) will “hear it and keep it” and bear much fruit. 

7. Interestingly, Peter did not observe that those who had trouble understanding the things written by Paul, were due to their failure to seek the Holy Spirit to “enlighten” or “illuminate” their understanding; rather he said it was because they were “untaught and unstable”.  

They refused to be taught:  they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7) – probably because “they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2:10).  

The Hebrew writer commented on their lack of spiritual growth: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food”, “being unskilled in the word of righteousness” (Heb 5:12-14).

8. The Bible exhorts us to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15). We should be careful not to twist the Scriptures due to our lack of understanding or refusal to accept the truth.