Misunderstanding Scripture

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Like Peter in his letter, we have spent much time examining the fact that people can and will use the Scriptures to teach falsehoods. Interestingly enough, Peter closes his letter referencing the apostle Paul and Paul’s letters. Peter, a man, a Christian, an apostle was corrected by Paul himself (Galatians 2.11-16). Yet Peter does not criticize Paul; instead Peter stands behind Paul’s writings and upholds those writings as Scripture. If there was ever a man who could have held a grudge, it was Peter – after all who did Paul think he was coming in there and speaking to Peter in such a “derogatory” way?

While it is valuable to see how two Christians can have a relationship following tension, the tension is not the context of Peter’s reference. Peter is exhorting the brethren to not be persuaded by false teachers (chapter 2), not to believe false teachings about the Second Coming of Christ (3.1-14) and to be aware how true teaching can be misapplied.

Peter states that Paul’s writings were written to Christians (3.15) and contain things hard to understand (3.16). But the admonition is for Christians not to “torture language in a false sense1” so as to wrest or twist Scripture into saying something not really meant, no matter the writer. Brethren, if it was possible for those Christians to misunderstand Scripture, then it is entirely possible for us to twist the Scriptures into saying something they don’t.

Simply stated, God’s Word cannot and does not contradict itself. Why? Because God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14.33). If Scriptures seem to contradict themselves, then it is we who are not understanding properly. If we are befuddled it could be due to a lack of knowledge of Scripture; or it could be due to our presuppositions about the Scriptures; or it could be baggage from upbringing, or any number of things.

Peter did not want the Christians who received his letter to be destroyed like the unlearned and the unstable (or as the ASV states, “the ignorant and unstedfast”) who misunderstand Scripture (3.16b-17); neither does God want us to be destroyed. As we read, study, and live the Scriptures we must allow God to teach us, and we must change. Is it any wonder that a man who was corrected in his understanding now writes to other Christians to maintain proper understanding?

1 Thayer definition for the Greek word translated wrest in the KJV