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Twisting the Word

Twisting the Word

Words of Faith 3-24-2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Peter 3

     [15b] ... just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. [16] He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.


         It is interesting that Peter commented that the letters of Paul contain "some things that are hard to understand" and are therefore misinterpreted by "ignorant and unstable people."  Oh good!  I am not the only one!  Even Peter realized that some of what Paul wrote was not that easy to interpret.  But there was more going on here than just that.

         It is nice to not feel so bad about our problems in interpreting Paul. Still, the context suggests that Peter is making a slightly different point. It is not so much that what Paul wrote was obscure.  Rather, it could be easy, by looking at what Paul said in the wrong context or in an unbalanced way, to get the wrong meaning out of it.

        If we look at the letters of Paul, we see situations in which people whom he had taught seized on one of his teachings, took it out of context, and drew the wrong conclusion from it. For example, when the Corinthians seized the slogan, "Everything is permissible for me" (1 Cor. 6:12), they were probably quoting the words of Paul. But Paul pointed out their mistake was in failing to recognize other balancing truths along with that one.  Another example was addressed in the letter of James, who corrected the misunderstanding of Paul's teaching about "justification by faith.”  He made it clear that faith without works as evidence or fruit is "dead faith.”

         Peter made it clear that "ignorant and unstable" people who "distort" or twist the meaning of what Paul wrote bring destruction on themselves.  Peter was certainly addressing the false teachers whom he had been rebuking in this letter (the same word "unstable" asteriktos is used of them in 2:14) but there is a timeless warning here.  Those who distort the Word of God either out of ignorance or an unstable faith are bringing destruction on themselves.

        The implication is that this was much more than a misunderstanding of an obscure point written by Paul.  These false teachers were "twisting" Paul's own writings as support for their heresies. Peter may be thinking of their faulty view of Christ's return.  But he is more likely thinking of their lawless and licentious conduct.  We know that not too long after this time, various heretics appealed to passages in Paul to support just such unbridled behavior.

        The big point that Peter was making is that the false teachers distort Paul's letters "as they do the other Scriptures."  Clearly, Peter considered the letters of Paul to belong to the category of "Scripture."  Peter implied that the letters of Paul have a status equivalent to that of the canon of the Old Testament itself.

        The warning for us as modern believers is to be wary of those who would twist the Scripture to support heresy.  This is often the danger in topical studies and preaching that uses "proof-texts" that are taken out of context to make a point. 

        What is our response?  We must be committed to studying the Word carefully and in context.  We must be wary of the selfish whims in interpretation that we may hear.  We must be wary of the "new meaning" of a scripture that no one has ever heard of or considered.  We must seek to prepare ourselves to rightly divide the Word of Truth.


         Lord God, keep me faithful to Your Word.  May I always be submitted to Your Word rather than making it submit to me.  May I always be shaped by Your Word, rather than shaping it to fit my thoughts or ideas.  May I be found obedient to Your Word as Your Spirit uses it to make me and mold me.  In Jesus' Name.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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