“Consistency of the Message”
II Peter 3:1-2, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:”
This morning, mankind chases after the next “happening thing.” Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow minister in which we both marveled at why certain things in the world held sway and appeal with people. We both agreed that ultimately the answer lay within the realm of the event or situation being the happening thing. It was a circumstance that was important in the eyes of the world. Being in the midst of it made you involved. You were seen. You were important. More often than not, these types of things deal with something that is fresh and new. Natural man is fascinated by newer things, and being on the leading edge of it swells his importance in his perspective. These days, religion is unheralded, and orthodox religion is even less heralded. Old fashioned ideas and concepts have seen their day.
The message of Scripture is patently different. Peter’s thought in our study verses is one that brings me much comfort personally as a minister. When a minister attempts to bring a message to God’s people, there are many things that occupy his mind: 1. First and foremost, is it sound?, 2 Is this being led of the Spirit, 3. Is it thought out?, and 4 Is this the right time and occasion for this particular message? We must follow our impressions to the best of our ability for #2 and #4 and trust those impressions are heavenly. We spend hours trying to fulfill #3, but the greatest concern that a minister has is keeping the ground of his mind hedged in areas that are sound according to Scripture. One of the great helps in Scripture that God gives us is a consistency based on the consistency of His nature. God is not duplicitous or fiendish. What He says endures. What He declares does not change. Therefore, we can expect messages today to be consistent with messages of yesteryear to fulfill the injunction of soundness.
Peter’s exact point in these verses is to remind his readers of some things. Notice in verse 1 that he is not attempting to present something new. Rather, he desires to stir up their pure minds by way of “remembrance.” Remembrance can only be had with something that we already knew. Peter has no misgivings that his audience already knew these things. He just wants to remind them of those same things (indeed the theme for this 2nd epistle). The reason Peter knew that they already knew these things is because he had written his first epistle in the same vein of consistent thought that this one has. But, he – in verse 2 – is able to point further back too.
Peter’s first epistle is consistent in thought with this second one, but Peter references the other apostles too. Later in this chapter, Peter will mention Paul by name as writing consistent things to what Peter also wrote. (Verse 15-16) However, Peter goes further back in verse 2 as well. By implication, Jesus is included as well as the prophets of the olden times. Consider this long line. From the prophets in Old Testament times, through the Master, and down to His apostles, the message has been consistent and true. The various declarations of men throughout the centuries all point to the same things and bring to light the same commandments. Therefore, ministers today have the obligation to preach and teach these same things to be part of this long and consistent line.
Though the illustration does not bear up completely due to the nuance of language and culture, I have said before that my hope is that if Paul, Peter, or some man of God from the times of Scripture was to walk into one of our services today it would look familiar to him. Whether the order of the service or the heart of the message, our pattern and thoughts should mirror what they had and experienced in their day. With the world consistently looking for new things and following after the most recent fad, the household of faith should take great comfort and safety in a message that has endured generation after generation through various cultures and dispensations.
When I was a boy, I used to wonder why preachers harped on certain subjects the way they did. Some of the subjects and passages described had such a passion and fervency to them when the men introduced and preached them. As I have grown older and now declare these same things, it made me reflect on my mindset then. The passion and energy is first and foremost because it is the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, but going back to matters 1-4 above, it is Spirit led, thought out, and still relevant for this time. With the world desiring something new, the church still has what she has always had. What she had then is still good for her now. As one of my dear fathers in the ministry told me, “What works in the world will kill the church, and what works for the church will kill the world.”
Though this message is consistent, true, and hopefully declared plainly, notice that Peter did not use the exact same words as Paul, who did not use the exact same words as Jesus, who did not use the exact same words as the prophets. The message was not a copy of the same clichés, buzzwords, and catchphrases to be consistent. It is consistent due to the heart of the testimony being the same. We can grow stagnant in things that are true. Recently, I was given a very sweet compliment after preaching a pair of discourses in another state. A minister came up to me after the 2nd service and said, “I talked to my son after you preached a meeting down there last year. When I asked him what you preached about, he said, ‘Doctrine, but Pop, it was fresh.'” With tears in his eyes, he said, “That’s what it was today. It was the same gospel story, but it was fresh. That’s what our people need. The same thing, but always served fresh.” Amen and amen dear brother. That is truly what sheep food is all about. I love food analogies, and there is not much I prefer in this world next to a good steak. However, I want my steak freshly cooked, properly seasoned, and served hot. I want the gospel to be that same good piece of meat but freshly cooked, properly seasoned, and served with the unction of the Holy Ghost. When these things are met, our message will be consistent and clearly in the same line of faithful men who have been declaring it from long ago.