“FALSE ASSURANCES, #5 (God gave me a verse!)”

Second Peter 3.16



1.   There are many different ways by which a professing Christian can convince himself that he is a believer.  I am in the habit of bringing a Bible sermon from time to time that focuses on those assurances of salvation that are false, and which can just as easily be used by a lost person to convince himself that he is saved as a real Christian can.  This is part of our church’s effort to bring sanity and integrity to Southern California Christianity.

2.   Please do not think I am opposed to the notion of a Christian having the assurance of his salvation.  I am very much in favor of real Christians being assured of their salvation in a way that the Bible advocates.  But I am very much opposed to fake Christians having the kind of soul-damning assurance that scripture does not advocate.

3.   Turn in your Bible to Second Peter 3.13.  When you find that verse, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

13     Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

14     Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

15     And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

16     As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

17     Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

18     But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 

4.   The entire third chapter of Second Peter contrasts the saved and the lost.  But our concern this morning will have to do with what Peter indicates unsaved people typically do with the Bible, and especially those portions of scripture written by the apostle Paul.

5.   Why did Peter single Paul’s writings out for comment?  My guess would be, first, because Paul wrote so much of the New Testament, and, second, because Paul’s writings are so rich in doctrine.  Lost people typically want to make the Bible say what they want it to say rather than what it actually says.

6.   Notice, in verse 6, how this takes place:

“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 

7.   Three things before brother Isenberger comes for another song before this morning’s sermon: 


1B.      First, “they” are the unconverted.

1C.   It is quite easy to ascertain that the people Peter is referring to in this verse are those who are unconverted, who are lost, who are without Christ, who are not real Christians, who are yet in their sins.

2C.   As I mentioned a moment ago, this entire third chapter contrasts the saved and the lost.  So it is very easy to determine who is being referred to by noticing the pronouns that Peter uses.

3C.   You, ye, and our refers to those Peter is writing to, “that have obtained like precious faith with us,” Second Peter 1.1.

4C.   But when he refers to people using the pronouns they and them, he is clearly referring to those who are not born again, to those who are Hell-bound, to those who are enemies of God.

2B.      Next, “they” are unlearned.

1C.    Notice the phrase in our text that reads “they that are unlearned.”  The Greek word here, amaqhV, means “untaught.  The word brings out the moral value of teaching, of trained habits of reflection, of disciplined good sense.”[1]

2C.    As I was studying this portion of scripture I was at once reminded of the number of times I have sat down with unconverted people, who have never one time read the Bible through, who have never one time studied any portion of God’s Word, who have never one time pondered and meditated upon scriptural truth, but who, nevertheless, took the liberty to begin lecturing me on what the Bible teaches.

3C.    What is it about so many unsaved people who have never studied the Bible that causes them to think they know what scripture teaches? 

3B.    But ignorant lost people are not the only ones Peter is referring to in this verse.  He is referring to unconverted and untaught people who are also unstable.

1C.    The verse reads, “. . . they [lost people] that are unlearned [meaning they are ignorant] and unstable . . . .”  But what does unstable mean?  And unstable in what way?

2C.    The word translated here means “without firmness, unstable.  They lack a firm foundation in faith and discipline, and so are liable to be unsettled by scandalous conduct or erroneous teaching.”[2]

3C.    Is Peter referring to a particular kind of unsaved person, that one who is particularly ignorant or especially unstable?  No, I think he is not.  Anyone who is unsaved is untaught of the Father and is unschooled in Christ.  How can you be learned if you have not learned Christ?  And how can you possibly be stable when you have not been taken from the horrible pit, had your feet set upon the Solid Rock which is Jesus Christ, with your goings then established?[3]

4C.    My friends, anyone who is without Jesus Christ is unlearned and unstable.  That is the undeniable state of all who are not genuinely born again. 


“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures . . . .” 

1B.    The Greek word translated “wrest” is pronounced streblow.  It means to twist or to torture, though I think the context would suggest that the idea Peter has in mind here is twisting what the scripture means, or warping its intent.[4]  In agreement with this, John Gill writes that what is means is, “wrest the word of God, distort it from its true sense and meaning, and make it speak that which it never designed; dealing with it as innocent persons are sometimes used, put upon a rack, and tortured, and so forced to speak what is contrary to their knowledge and consciences; and so were the words of the Apostle Paul wrested by ill designing men, as about the doctrines of grace and works, so concerning the coming of Christ.”[5]

2B.    The apostle’s thrust in this verse is that unlearned and unstable lost folks so distort the writings of Paul, which are sometimes difficult to understand anyway, that they make him say things he never intended to stay.  And it was not only with Paul’s writings that this was done, but with other portions of scripture, as well.

3B.      May I give you just a few samples of this kind of wresting of the scriptures?

1C.         “You can be just as good a Christian at home as you can be at church.”

2C.         “I don’t make enough money to tithe.”

3C.         “The way you become a Christian is by asking Jesus into your heart.”

4C.         “God helps those who help themselves.”

4B.      These more obvious examples are typical of every unsaved person’s tendency to misconstrue, to distort, and to bend the scriptures to fit their own notions of what the Bible should say. 

3A.   Finally, NOTICE “THEIR” END

“. . . which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 

What is Peter saying here?  In what way do they that are unlearned and unstable wrest scriptures unto their own destruction?  In at least two ways:

1B.      First, when someone twists and bends the clear meaning of God’s truth into doctrines that are wrong and misleading, they cause confusion and chaos about things related to salvation.  Can anything be worse than being confused about who the Savior is, what your soul’s condition is that you need a Savior, and what the requirements are for salvation?  Nothing could be worse.  Yet that is precisely what happens when they that are unlearned and unstable wrest the scriptures.  The result?  They and those who they influence are doomed to eternal damnation.

2B.    As well, what about the warnings given in the Bible about adding to or taking away from God’s Word?  Dire consequences await those who add to God’s Word and to those who take away from God’s Word.  Yet is that not exactly what happens when they that are unlearned and unstable wrest the scriptures?  Already consigned to eternal Hellfire for being estranged from God, they must also face the additional punishment promised by God’s curse, Revelation 22.18-19:

18     For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19     And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 


1.   Our text, then, shows that unsaved people are unlearned and unstable.  If you are unconverted you are, by definition, unlearned and unstable.  You have not learned Christ and your house is built on sand.

2.   Your tendency, as a direct result of your nature, is to wrest the scriptures, to bend and distort Bible truth to justify your cravings, your lusts, your prejudices, and your sinful inclinations.

3.   Take, for example, that unconverted man who has just a bit of familiarity with Bible teaching concerning God’s sovereignty.  Such a person would justify his laziness and his unwillingness to strive to enter in at the strait gate as Jesus commanded by thinking, “What’s the use.  God has already decided who is going to get saved.”  Such a man, unlearned and unstable, has wrested the scripture unto his own destruction.

4.   In just a moment, after brother Isenberger leads us in a song, a very simple sermon about one way in which those who are unlearned and unstable wrest the scriptures unto their own destruction.

5.   Stand at this time as brother Isenberger comes to lead us. 


1.   A while back a church member came across a number of personal testimonies that were written by some young people a little over nine years ago.  He gave them to me and I read them a couple of days ago.

2.   Though none of the written testimonies is in any way persuasive, and a number of them begin with the phrase “I got saved by pastor,” they remind me how very weak and feeble are the cords that you will use to tie down your hopes of someday entering heaven.

3.   The false assurance that I want to address this morning usually takes the form, “God gave me this wonderful verse from the Bible!” or “God brought this comforting passage to my mind.”

4.   Are you a person who has great confidence that you are a Christian because there was a time, or because there have been times, when God brought verses to your mind to comfort you and reassure you about your salvation?  My friend, such as that is a false hope.

5.   Or perhaps you are a person who is greatly discouraged because during times of reflection and concern about your soul’s salvation such comforting passages do not come to your mind.  May I also say to you, that is no necessary indication that you are lost.

6.   Make no mistake about God’s intention to give assurance to those who have been born again into His family.  But also make no mistake about the fact that such assurance is not given by God by means of scripture verses that He brings to mind.

7.   For the next few minutes I want to shed some scriptural light on your mind and how it can be affected: 


1B.    Just so you will be clear that the mind and the heart are both words that describe different aspects of the soul, and that both the heart and the mind refer to that faculty associated with thinking, let me read Psalm 23.7 to you:  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”  Notice that this verse ascribes to your heart the faculty of thinking.  Thus, references to the heart are not only references to emotions, but are also references to thinking.

2B.      That said, Jeremiah 17.9 looms as one of the most important verses in the Bible as an indicator of the nature and tendency of a sinner’s thoughts:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  Consider First Corinthians 3.18, James 1.22, and First John 1.8.  I lift the pertinent phrases from each verse: 

First Corinthians 3.18:  “Let no man deceive himself.”

James 1.22:  “. . . deceiving your own selves.”

First John 1.8:  “. . . we deceive ourselves . . . .”

3B.    So, we know from Jeremiah that your thinking faculty, identified as the heart by Jeremiah but also known as your mind, is both deceitful and wicked.  But it is in First Corinthians 3.18, James 1.22, and First John 1.8, that your capacity for self-deception is observed.

4B.      Thus, it is both reasonable and responsible for you to acknowledge that your sinful nature, wicked as it is, is prone not only to deceiving others, but is also prone to self-deception.  That is, you have the innate capacity to so convincingly lie to yourself that you are fully convinced that the lie is true.

5B.      You may not think such a dangerous ability as self-deception is much of a threat to you, but what if you have convinced yourself that you are converted when you are not?  And what if you make use of some illegitimate assurance of salvation to comfort yourself, such as this notion that you are saved because some comforting verse once came to your mind?  And it is the sinfulness of your nature that makes this possibility not only likely, but certain.

6B.    Do you realize what that can mean to your eternal and undying soul?  It means that you can very well comfort yourself with a verse your wicked and sinful heart dredges up to provide false comfort and assurance, all the while being completely without real hope.  And when you die in your sleep, to what you thought would be an eternal rest, you will be rudely awakened by the searing pain of Hellfire and brimstone against the backdrop of the howls and screams of agony of others who are also damned.

7B.      Thus, the effect your sinful nature has on your mind should discourage you from ever allowing yourself to be assured of your salvation by some Bible verse brought to mind. 


1B.    Many people, both Christians and unsaved people, make the erroneous assumption that the human mind is a closed system that cannot be influenced by outside intelligence.  That is not true.  There are also people who assume that because they are Christians their minds can only be influenced by the Holy Spirit.  That, too, is not true.  First, it is frequently a wrong assumption that you are a Christian.  As well, it is a wrong assumption to think that your mind cannot be influenced from outside by someone who is not the Holy Spirit.

2B.    My friend, your mind (which is to say, your thoughts) can be influenced by the Holy Spirit and by the devil, whether you are saved or not.  Your thoughts can also be influenced by demons, whether or not you are saved.  So, you dare not operate on the false assumption that because you think you are a Christian you are immune from satanic or demonic influence.

3B.   Turn to First Timothy 4.1:  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”  This verse shows, conclusively, that spirit beings can seduce people into believing things that are not true.  To restate, devils (or demons) can influence what people believe.

4B.    And if you think to yourself, “But Paul was writing about lost people.  That cannot happen to Christians,” keep in mind that he wrote that to Timothy.  But I have another passage for you to consider.  Turn to Galatians 3.1:  “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”  No doubt this refers to the influence of some very persuasive men and not the direct agency of demons, but demonic fingerprints are all over this type of enticement to lure people, including Christian people, away from the purity of the gospel.

5B.      And do not forget the Lord Jesus Christ’s temptations by the devil.  Turn to Matthew 4.1:

1         Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2        And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

3       And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4       But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of        the mouth of God.

5       Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

6       And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge          concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 

1C.   Please take note that the devil is shown in this passage to utter Bible verses to the Son of God.  If the devil can speak Bible verses to the Lord Jesus Christ then he can bring Bible verses to your mind.

2C.    And to what end did the devil make use of scripture?  Even though all scripture is inspired, is given by God, and is holy and pure, the devil’s example shows that scripture can still be misused with evil intent.  The same devil who sought to tempt the Son of God when it suited his purposes is able to use the Bible to lull unsaved people into a sense of complacency and false assurance.

6B.    Please do not think yourself so powerful that the same devil who took the Son of God and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple to tempt Him, where he then quoted scripture to Him, cannot bring to remembrance verses that he observes in the deep recesses of your memory.

7B.    As the Holy Spirit, as a spirit, can directly enter your thoughts, so can the devil and his demons, they too being spirits, can directly enter your thoughts and subtly lead you to false conclusions about your assurance of salvation by manipulating the verses you have memory of. 


1.   My friends, there are two entirely different kinds of assurance of salvation.  There is the false kind, that serves no useful purpose except to delude and deceive, and then there is the true kind, that has as its end true spirituality and godliness.

2.   The great thing about real assurance, Biblical assurance, is that it holds up under any kind of pressure, remains strong and comforting through any storm of life.

3.   There are three bad things about false assurance, such as the pretense that some comforting verse in the Bible is taken to mean that you are a Christian:

a.   First, it simply is not scriptural.  God gives assurance, but He does not give assurance by means of someone remembering a comforting verse from the Bible.

b.   Second, false assurances simply will not hold up under pressure.  When persecution or unanticipated trials of life come your way you need something that will endure bad weather.  False assurances will not, but real assurance always weathers the storm.

c.   Finally, false assurances can be embraced by the unsaved as well as the saved.  And if a false assurance of salvation can be counterfeited by someone who is unsaved, what good is it except to make you feel good for a short time?

4.   So, this subject of assurance of salvation is an important subject.  But it is also a misunderstood subject.  If you have no assurance of salvation, or if your assurance of salvation is based upon some indicator that even unsaved people can imitate, I urge you to come and talk to me.  We will open the Bible to see what God says about this matter of assurance.

1 [1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 783.

2 [2] See footnote on 2 Peter 2.14 by Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 778.

3 [3] Psalm 40.2

4 [4] Rienecker, page 783.

5 [5] John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)

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