(2 Peter 3:1-10)
by Spencer Gear PhD
I exhort you to have
“pure thoughts in your mind,” (GNB) to
have a “pure mind,” (Moffat’s translation) to
do some “wholesome thinking,” (NIV)
To stir “up your sincere mind” (ESV)
To clean up your mind.
What do you think I am referring to?
Some may think that I am telling you to keep away from x-rated videos that are now called “non-violent erotica” or porn on the Internet. Others would think that certain magazines are off limits. Or get your mind off the sensual and sexual.
Today I want to “stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (NIV) But I want you to get your mind off sex. “‘Wholesome thinking’ is more than getting sex off your mind” — that’s the title of my message.
Read 2 Peter 3:1-10
These two letters of 1 & 2 Peter were written to “stir up your pure minds” (KJV), according to 3:1. Other translations speak of:
- “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV, ESV),
- “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version),
- “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible),
- “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible)
- “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips),
The idea is this: If you read chapter two of 2 Peter, you will see that the church of the first century was faced with what is happening in Australia today. False teachers and false prophets were propounding their destructive heresies.
Peter says: “Dear friends,” or “Beloved” (he uses this word 4 times in this third chapter, vv. 1, 8, 14, 17), suggesting that Peter had an “affectionate interest in his readers.” But he was desperately concerned that they might be led astray by false teaching. He began to address this in chapter 2 of this epistle. So here, he wants to stir up their “minds” or “stimulate” them in their thinking.
This is not the normal Greek word for mind, nous. Rather, this is dianoia. It is referring to our ability to “reflect,” our “understanding.”  It’s a similar idea to what we find in I Peter 1:13, “Prepare your minds for action.”
Peter is calling upon these believers (and us, by application) to have thinking that is “uncontaminated by the lust and heresy all around them.” “Pure” or “wholesome” is in the sense of “unmixed” with error and impurity.
This is probably why the J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase is pretty close to the mark. We must have “minds uncontaminated with error.” But what kinds of error? It was the kind of error that was around in the first century and it is is with us today.
Yes, we can engage in unwholesome thinking when our minds are bombarded with sex. But there’s other dangerous, unwholesome thinking that is more subtle than that. And we are subjected to it in deluge proportions today.
B. We are to clean up our thinking in four areas:
Firstly: Peter says: This world is dominated by very naturalistic thinking. There is nothing supernatural, just matter – some say. Human beings do not have a soul or spirit. I was talking to a Christian drug counsellor in Brisbane recently and he said that a psychiatrist raised his voice at him and thumped his fist on the table: “We are nothing but flesh, and legal drugs are the only cure for our ills.” Matter is all that matters.
Peter challenges us: that is “unwholesome thinking.”
Secondly: Your “unwholesome thinking” can get you to think that it is NOT God who acts in human history, but the USA, the United Nations, and the Australian government as a small player. Look at Kosovo, Vietnam, Uganda, Iraq, September 11 2001, and the Middle East. If you think this way, your thinking is not pure. It is mixed with error.
Thirdly: Peter wants you to meditate on this: even though there is evil, slaughter and strife all around us, God’s delay in acting (holding back Jesus’ second return) is not because God is powerless. God has excellent reasons for stalling Christ’s return.
Fourthly: Human history is not going around in circles (as my doctor said to me), it is heading for an enormous climax. President Joe Biden (USA President 2022) and Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister 2022) will not be in control. Neither will the United Nations be able to do it.
While there may be what looks like a repeat of certain events in world history, God’s pattern is NOT cyclical. God’s view is teleological. That’s a big word, but it comes from the Greek, teleos, meaning “ultimate purpose and design.”
This world is heading towards God’s GRAND conclusion to the world and it is right on track. God has a design and nobody in this world will change it.
Let’s see how Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.”
C. First Challenge (v. 3),
scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days”.
When are the last days? This is not just the time immediately before Christ’s second coming. The “last days” is the period that extends from Christ’s first coming to his second coming.
What were these mockers saying?
- “scoffing”; It’s an interesting phrase, “scoffers will come, scoffing” (v. 3). They are “mocking at holy things.” These scoffers will be:
- “following their own evil desires”; Sounds like today!
- “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” they ask;
- “everything does on as it has since the beginning of creation” (vv. 3-4).
This is a description of Australia today—we have droves of people who deny biblical truths and live in ungodly ways.
I have done a little writing in “letters to the editor” to local papers down through the years, opposing the use of marijuana and showing how dangerous it is, from a scientific perspective. Also, I do not hide my Christian commitment when I write, if it is relevant to the point being debated.
A person responded to some of the issues others and I have raised with this language:
- “right-wing religious zealots who dominate much of our local anti-drug groups”;
- “effective drug policy should never be confused with moral crusades”;
- “Some may ask why I seem [so] interested in drug issues?
- The reason is that I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”
- “our local anti-marijuana crusaders”;
- “Right wing anti-drug groups.”
The Bible is right on target, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing, and following their own evil desires.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher of the 19th century, influenced Adolf Hitler and his super-race mentality. Nietzsche wrote:
“Christian morality is the most malignant form of all falsehood… It is really poisonous, decadent, weakening. It produces nincompoops not men… I condemn Christianity and confront it with the most terrible accusation that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. To my mind it is the greatest of all conceivable corruptions. . . . I call it the most immortal blemish on mankind.”
It was Nietzsche who described modern people this way: “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed Him.” It’s easy to think that this happened a century ago with Nietzsche. It is NOT relevant to us in Australia, right now.
I encountered a classic example of what the Bible is talking about, a few years ago—here in Australia. I was walking the streets of one of our capital cities, inviting people, young and old, to come to a Christian coffee shop we were operating on a voluntary basis.
A young man, about 18-years-old, wandered into the coffee shop. I was engaged in some good conversation with him. But when I began to share the reality of Jesus Christ and his need to repent, it was as if all hell broke loose.
He sneered, scoffed and then began shouting at me, “You Christians must be out of your mind. How ridiculous you are. You’ve been preaching this stuff for 2,000 years. Jesus will save you, make you clean, and he’s coming again. What rubbish! You’ve been preaching this myth for 2,000 years.”
He began to laugh loudly, “Ha! Ha! Where’s this Jesus you’re talking about? Where’s this promise about His coming again? It’s all hot air. You’ve got to be joking.” I turned to 2 Peter 3 and shared this passage with him. His head dropped, but he walked away – scoffing!
These scoffers in Peter’s day continued:
- “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:3-4).
This is the argument of evolution, called uniformitarianism. Harvard University’s astronomer, Harlow Shapley, said a few years ago:
“Some say, ‘In the beginning God. . .’ but I say, ‘In the beginning hydrogen.'” What he essentially meant was, “Give me hydrogen, time, and the natural laws, and I will give you the universe. Then we can be done once and for all with myths and fables about God or gods.”
So, are the scoffers correct? Has everything gone on “as it has from the beginning of creation”?
On the one hand, “Yes.” I am glad that the sun will rise tomorrow morning as it has done for thousands of years, millions of days. It does it like clockwork. And yet it’s not the sun rising at all. It is the earth revolving around the sun.
I am happy gravity operates consistently. It would be impossible to live in a world where, one minute I throw a ball out of the window and it falls to the ground. Another time that ball goes up, up and away into orbit. Imagine what it would be like living in such an unpredictable world.
If there was no uniformity to the way things happen, scientific investigation would not be possible. Yes, some things happen as they have since the “beginning of creation,” and we are glad.
On the other hand, DEFINITELY NOT! Peter reminds us that things have NOT gone on in a uniform way since creation. There have been massive interventions by God into our world that floors any argument for evolution’s uniformitarianism.
First, “By the word of God, the heavens existed [were created] and the earth was formed out of water and with water” (v. 5). How? By the supernatural intervention of God at creation. Read about it in the first chapter of Genesis.
Second, Everything had not gone on in a uniform way and 2 Peter 3:6 gives us a striking picture of the Great Flood that came at Noah’s time: “By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.”
There’s going to be a third time. Note v. 7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
When judgment comes at the close of this age, the heavens and the earth will be burnt up in a great inferno, and ALL ungodly people will be judged. NOBODY will get away with anything before God.
That’s why our proclamation of the gospel is so urgent in these days of cultural crisis. Most will turn away, but God will be about the work of saving some. We dare not be negligent in these dangerous, materialistic days in which we live.
Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.” Here, Peter is saying that your “pure mind” has nothing to do with sex. Your “pure thoughts” will know this: First (v. 3), scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days.” Don’t be surprised when you are mocked for your faith.
There’s a second dimension to this “wholesome thinking”:
D. (v. 8), if you overlook God’s perspective on time, your thinking will be putrid, not pure.
You must get the Lord’s perspective on time:
- “a day is like a thousand years,” and
- “a thousand years are like a day.”
What does this mean? There is a parallel verse in Ps. 90:4, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”
Everyone in this church, everyone in the world, will accept one of two positions in life:
- First, you will accept the ideas of human beings and their philosophies of history and their forecast for the future of the world.
I noticed on the TV news one time that one of the missions of a USA spacecraft was to further investigate the origins of the universe, billions of years ago.
For the Christian, this is “unwholesome thinking.” If you are looking to the world’s ideas of how time began, when and how the world came into being, as human beings think – this is ungodliness.
God’s views of creation and time are radically different.
- There’s s a second position. You can accept God’s perspective on time and where the world is heading — from the Bible (The Word of God), the prophets and apostles God has chosen. They will give you God’s account of the world and history. The truth, not human speculation.
If God has the power to stop what is going on in the world, why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he stop what’s going on in Bosnia, the slaughter of tourists in Uganda, and stopping the floods in Bangladesh that killed so many?
Let’s remember this:
- We must not be curious about “times and seasons.” The disciples
asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What was His reply? “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).
Quit worrying about times, dates and seasons in God’s timetable. They are in the capable hands of the Lord Almighty. By the limitations of our humanity, we cannot fully understand the mind of God. Leave the future with Him, while we go about, as v. 11 says, living “holy and godly lives.”
God’s relationship to time is so far removed from our thinking.
God is above time. He made time, but he chooses to act in time.
Listen to these words from Genesis concerning people and time: “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal. . . .” (Gen. 6:3); “For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16).
God’s striving to get through to the human heart will end one day. Think of what the Lord did in a day!
The days of creation.
The day on which Noah’s Flood came.
“If we think of the last day of our Lord’s Passion, how much affecting human history, and affecting angelic history, and affecting even God himself, was crowded into it” – ONE DAY?
We think of a day as a short time, almost like an insignificant period of time, and a thousand years as a long period of time. Not so with God. “A thousand years may be a short time with God” who is beyond time.
Just think of the enormous world-wide influence of one day — our Savior’s death. That one day will have more profound influence than thousands of years of human history.
Many people can waste away 70 years of life and accomplish very little. It is not the years that count in your life. It’s the thought, love and action that measure a good life, not the hands of the clock and the lapse of hours and years.
Thank God he’s eternal, the God of eternity. The psalmist put it so profoundly when speaking about God, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. . . . From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:4, 2).
There’s a third dimension to your “wholesome thinking”:
E. Third (v. 9), there’s a reason why God doesn’t end world history NOW. His delay is because of His grace.
If I said to my wife, I will mow the lawn and I don’t do it, she has every reason to say that I am slack, I break my word, and cannot be relied on.
Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).
But he hasn’t returned! We have been waiting 2,000 years and he hasn’t honoured his promise. If I don’t mow the lawn, I can be accused of being slack, breaking my word, and not being reliable. Can the same accusation be made about Jesus? That’s what the mockers of Peter’s day were doing. Look at v. 4 of this chapter in 2 Peter 3 that we are studying: “They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”
From v. 9, it seems that the Christians to whom Peter is writing, are beginning to accept what the mockers were saying. R. C. H. Lenski put it this way:
Since the [Second Coming] has not yet come, and since time keeps going on, ‘some’ who are unable to account for this ever-increasing delay and who let what verse 8 states escape them, get uneasy and think that the mockers are perhaps right in claiming that there is nothing to this whole promise of Christ’s return.
So, what’s the answer? Do we have an unreliable, slack Jesus who can’t keep his promises?
Peter says in v. 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” That word “slow” in the NIV, “slack” in KJV, means, “The Lord is not tardy.” “The word implies, besides delay, the idea of lateness with reference to an appointed time.”
If you are thinking, like these early Christians, that Jesus’ delay in not returning makes him tardy and slack, you are engaging in unwholesome, impure thinking. This kind of slackness can NEVER be attributed to God. If God says he will do something, and we think it is not fulfilled in OUR puny way of thinking of time, there is a REAL reason for the delay. And it has nothing to do with a slack, impotent God.
v. 9 gives us the clear reason for the delay: “He is patient [or longsuffering, KJV] with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
There is one and only one reason for the delay of Christ’s second coming: It’s the grace of God towards sinners.
God uses time so as to serve his purposes of grace. For that purpose a single day is as a thousand years to him, a thousand years as a single day. To him time, whether it is brief or long, is an entirely minor matter just so his gracious purpose is accomplished. Look at it this way. Then you will not think of delay, procrastination], emptiness of promise. Then you will see that the Lord’s waiting is his longsuffering toward you, his holding out long with the blessed intention . . . that none are to perish.”
The reason for the delay is the patience of God. He is extending time, putting off the Second Coming of Christ. “What is a thousand years to the Lord if he can thereby bring many to repentance?”
God said through Ezekiel: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Christ has not returned because God is extending the time so that we, the church, can get off our backsides, become active in proclaiming the Gospel so that God will bring many more into the kingdom.
Frankly, it is not a SLACK Lord, but a TARDY church. Paul, in Romans 2:4, said: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
Matthew 24:14 gives us a further clue: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Your “wholesome thinking” again has nothing to do with sensuality in Peter’s context. God’s delay is not a broken promise, or tardiness. It is God’s grace. His desire is that ALL will be saved. Through the Cross, the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, and God’s providence in the world. God is delaying his coming so that MORE will have the opportunity to repent.
We MUST respond with evangelism in the cities and towns where we live.
We MUST be committed to world evangelism, missions. Otherwise, we are engaging in worldly, impure, unwholesome thinking. That’s Bible.
There’s a fourth and final dimension that must be a part of your “wholesome thinking”:
F. Fourth (v. 10), God will end human history suddenly.
READ v. 10:
First Thess. 5 2 confirms this: “You know very well that the day of the
Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
Jesus agrees: “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:39-40).
By the “day of the Lord,” we are to understand it to be the glorious Second Coming of Christ. Its coming is as certain and as sure as God Himself.
It will be an awful day;
It will come like a thief entering your house in the darkness;
People will be eating, drinking, partying, marrying, defacto-ing, without a thought of God, and ZAP — the end will come.
It will be a catastrophe of humungous proportions. This will make the eruption of Mt. St. Helens look like a kids’ party.
The crash of a world falling apart;
The roar of destroying flames;
The dissolution of the elements into chaos;
The holocaust that will burn up the earth and everybody in it;
The palaces of kings, the forts around cities, the cathedrals and church buildings, burnt up in an instant of tremendous ruin.
This is God’s sudden judgment on a world that
thumbs its nose at him,
scoffs at the thought of his coming again,
treats Christians as idiots from another planet.
On that day, the heavens that at one time sent down a deluge of water in the time of Noah, “will themselves pass away . . . with a sudden crackling, sizzling, sputtering roar.”
Let’s pause for a moment to meditate on this message and apply it to us. You must have wholesome thinking, minds uncontaminated by error.
1. Mockers were around in the first century church. They are still with us. They scoff at holy things. Like the fellow writing to the Bundaberg, Qld., Australia News-Mail: “I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”
Expect it. But what’s your response? Will it be gruff and
antagonistic, or considerate as you respond to a person made in the image of God? It’s hard!
2. Men and women of science will constantly come up with new theories of how the world evolved billions of years ago. Will your faith remain rock solid on the FACTS of God’s Word, “In the beginning, God [not the force of evolution] created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
In spite of NASA sending satellites to try to discover the origin of the world and human life, will you remain firmly committed to the God of the Bible who has told us HE created it in the beginning?
No matter how sarcastic and arrogant the scientific community may become in asserting the certainty of uniformitarianism and evolution, will your faith remain solid in its commitment to the Lord of the universe?
2. Will you quit placing limitations of time on God? Will you let him be his eternal self? Pray fervently for God to save your family members, your neighbours and the people of the world, but leave the timing to him.
3. This world is becoming more putrid by the minute. People seem to sin their way into stupidity. Why hasn’t the Lord come by now? It’s His grace.
Since the second coming of Jesus has been delayed, what should your response be in sharing the gospel with family members, your neighbours, and taking the Gospel to the world? Mission societies are always struggling for funds to keep missionaries on the field. Will you become part of the financial solution, even if it is only a few dollars a week? Will you sacrifice, so that others will hear?
Wise people do not lay up treasures on earth. I plead with you to live with heaven on your mind, and not to live as though this dying, wretched world is your home.
4. “Suddenly, instantaneously, the end will come. The Lord will need no time at all. But there will come the Lord’s day as a thief, in which the heavens with a cracking crash… shall pass away; moreover, elements, being heated, shall be dissolved, and earth and the works in it shall be burned up.“
Peter is so certain about this sudden destructive blaze that will envelop and destroy the entire world that he repeats it in v. 12, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”
In light of this FACT, Peter gives the application in v. 11, “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”
God has intervened in judgments in the past: he did it when Adam and Eve sinned, through the World-wide Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the confusion of languages at the Towel of Babel; Israel was judged in being sent to Egypt and Babylon.
God will do it again when the world ends in a massive inferno. In light of this, I urge you to live godly lives as you live for Jesus in the town where God placed you and proclaim Christ in an antagonistic culture.
Believers, remember that v. 13 follows: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
Is your mind clean, clear, pure and wholesome in God’s way of thinking?
H. Works consulted
Alford, Henry. Alford’s Greek Testament: Volume IV, Part II, James -Revelation (containing revisions by Henry Alford up to the time of his death in 1871). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press, 1976,
Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).
Geisler, Norman L. Ethics: Alternatives and Issues. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966.
Parker, Gary. Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament (Volume VI: The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933.
Shapley, Harlow (ed.), Science Ponders Religion. New York: Appellation Century-Crofts, 1960.
Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell (eds.), The Pulpit Commentary (Vol. 22, Epistles of Peter, John & Jude, The Revelation). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, The Second Epistle General of Peter, exposition and homiletics by B.C. Caffin.
The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language: International Edition. Boston: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1975.
 2 Peter 3:1, Good News Bible.
 2 Pt. 3:1, Moffatt’s Bible translation, New King James Version.
 2 Pt. 3:1, New International Version (NIV).
Eg., Playboy, Penthouse and Picture magazines.
 2 Pt. 3:1, NIV. Other translations of “wholesome thinking” are: The literal Greek means “pure mind”; “pure thoughts in your mind” (Good News Bible), “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV), “sincere intention” (NRSV), “sincere disposition” (New American Bible), “honest minds” (New Century Version, Weymouth), “honest thought” (NEB, REB), “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version), “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible), “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips), “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible).
 Pulpit Commentary, vol 22, 65.
 Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol VI, 172.
 Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, 123.
 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., originally published 1887, reprinted 1946, 703.
 The Heritage English Dictionary, 1323.
 Caffin in Spence and Exell, The Second Epistle General of Peter, 85.
 Letters to the Editor, “Marijuana would remain illegal,” M. Buscombe, Bundaberg, in the Bundaberg News-Mail, March 5, 1999, 13.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Christ. New York: Knopf, 230, in Geisler, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, 1971, p. 33.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom, translated by Thomas Common, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1960, section 125, 167-168, in Geisler, 1971, p. 33.
 In Gary Parker, Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980, 139. See also Harlow Shapley (ed.), 1960, 3.
Spence, Exell, Caffin, 86.
 Suggested by ibid., 67.
 Suggested by ibid., 73.
 The original said “Parousia.”
 Lenski, 345.
 Alford, 415.
 Vincent, 705.
 The original said, “dilatoriness.”
 My deleted section reads, “boulomai [in Greek characters] is often used in this sense, notably in I Tim. 2:8; 5:14; Titus 3:8; etc., Lenski, 346.
 Ibid., 345-346, emphasis added.
 Ibid., 346.
 See also Ezekiel 18:23, which asks: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
 Ibid., 347.
 Lenski, 346, emphasis in original.
Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 January 2022.