"In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same Word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet. 3:3-7).
When the apostle Peter pointed out that false teachers would deny the second coming of Jesus Christ, he introduced his arguments with the statement, "For this they willfully forget." It may seem inconceivable that any person would just deliberately "forget" what God has revealed to mankind. It is one thing to forget something, it is an entirely different matter when one "willfully forgets." That means that one has set his mind to ignore it.
God has given us His Word to guide us in this life, and as Peter wrote: "I stir up your sincere minds by putting you in remembrance" (2 Pet. 3:1). Much of the preaching and teaching we do is to "put you in remembrance" of what you have already heard and learned. But just as some in the days of the apostles willfully forgot what God instructed, evidence points to the existence of many such people, even today.
Some Willfully Forget God: -- The atheist is "willingly ignorant"
(as the KJV reads in our text) that there is a God who created heaven and earth.
The evidence of this is not hidden in some rare book nor secreted in vague,
mystic messages. God's existence is forcefully present in His creation. This
unanswerable argument of a Creator is found in every rock, cloud, plant, animal, river, mountain and ocean. As the psalmist wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, And night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psa. 19:1-3).
No man need be ignorant of the evidence which is so plainly shown. As the apostle Paul wrote, "For the wrath of God is revealed form heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that whcih is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse" (Rom. 1:18-20). A person may choose to not believe in God, but it is a choice that is made against all the evidence of the creation. As the psalmist wrote, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psa. 14:1). And only a fool would deny all the evidence and then make that statement.
Some Forget God's Son, The Christ: -- There is ample evidence in the prophecies of the Old Testament that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah, or Christ. There are more than three hundred separate prophecies in Old Testament Scripture that foretell the birth, life, death and purpose of the Christ And Jesus fulfilled them all. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, God promised the Christ when He said to Satan: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15).
The history of Israel, from Abraham to the cross of Calvary, reveals more of this "seed" of promise, and shows Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, the Son of God. To Abraham the promise was given, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18). God promised Moses that another kind of prophet would come (Deut. 18:18,19), and Jesus fulfills that prophecy perfectly (Jno. 12:48-50). Another prophet foretold that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), of the seed of David (Psa. 89:3,4) and would be the Savior of His people (Jer. 23:5,6).
But no prophet was more explicit than Isaiah, who wrote: "The Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel... For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 7:14; 9:6). And then in Isa. 53, he foretells the life of Christ, and gives numerous details of His death, centuries before the Christ was born -- all of which Jesus fulfilled perfectly.
Some Willfully Forget The Church: -- The church which Jesus built is clearly revealed in the Word of God. Jesus promised it, "I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18). That church is composed of saved people: "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved" (Acts 2:47). In fact, it is composed of all the saved people -- for the Lord adds the saved to it. How, then could any saved people be outside that church? Jesus is the Head of that church, which is His body (Col. 1:18). Christ gave Himself up for the church (Eph. 5:25), purchasing it with His own blood (Acts 20:28), and He is the Savior of that church (Eph. 5:23). That church is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18,19; Heb. 12:23,28), and Jesus christ is the King (1 Tim. 6:15).
Now, all of that is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, and people have read it for years. But, blinded by denominational bias and the preaching of denominational leaders, they "willfully forget" the basic teaching of the Word of God about His church. They know it is there, but they "willfully forget" that the church is not a denomination. But Jesus prayed to the Father, "Not for these (the apostles) only do I pray, but for all those that believe on Me through their word, that they may all be one, as Thou, Father art in Me, and I in Thee" (Jno. 17:20, 21). The devil has blinded people to the extent that they cannot conceive of Christianity except in denominational terms. But the Lord's plan was that there would never be any denominations, but that all believers would be united in Him and His church. We read that in the Bible, but some "willfully forget."
Some Willfully Forget The Plan Of Salvation: -- The gospel plan of salvation is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Jesus told the apostles, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16), and "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations" (Lk. 24: 47). That is precisely what the apostles and other inspired men preached. When they preached on Pentecost (Acts 2), people were "pricked in their heart" and asked, "What shall we do?" (vs. 37). The answer form the Lord was clear: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (vs. 38). The result is stated plainly; "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls...And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved" (vss. 41,47). All of that is easy to read and understand, but some "willfully forget" and invent other ways of being saved.
Some teach that we are "saved by faith only." But the Scripture says: "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? ... Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself...Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (Jas. 2:14,17,24). The only faith that will avail is "faith which works through love" (Gal. 5:6). And over and over the Lord shows that being saved requires obedience to Him: "Not every one tht saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
Most denominational preachers will disparage the necessity of baptism for salvation. But they "willfully forget" that "every spiritual blessing is in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), and that we are "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3). They have read it, they know it is God's Word, but they "willfully forget" it and retreat to their "faith only" teaching. The only act of obedience that puts one "into Christ" is baptism. The Lord put it there, and it doesn't matter if some "willfully forget" it, baptism is still part of God's plan of salvation. These folk have read the book of Acts, with all of the examples of conversion: people heard the word, they believed it, they repented, they confessed their faith in Christ and were baptized into Him. Yes, those preachers in denominations have read all that in the Bible, but they "willfully forget" it and teach some other plan of salvation.
Some Willfully Forget God's Plan For Worship: -- The worship of the first century church was really very simple. But it honored and glorified God, and it edified Christians. Because Jesus was raised form the dead on the first day of the week, "The disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread" (Acts 20:7) in memory of Him in the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-28). Also, on the first day of the week, they gave "as they had prospered" (1 Cor. 16:1,2) to finance the work of the church. Those early Christians had preaching (Acts 20:7) and prayers (Phil. 4:6,7) in their worship assemblies. And in those assemblies, they were "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19).
Some today "willfully forget" the example of Nadab and Abihu, who "offered strange fire before the Lord which He did not command" (Lev. 10:1,2). God sent fire down to consume them. The point was -- and is -- that God accepts in worship only that He has authorized. But nowhere in the New Testament Scriptures are instruments of music authorized by the Lord for Christian worship. It is just not there. But some "willfully forget." They think it will "help us reach people," or it will "stir up the heart better" or ... The truth is, no one uses instruments of music to praise God because God wants it, but because they want it.
Some even "willfully forget" the very purpose of worship. Worship is to honor God, to praise God, to glorify God. It is not for show, it is not designed for entertainment. In fact, its purpose is not to please men, but God. Cheerleading-type worship assemblies -- with waving hands and clapping -- may appeal to the fleshly part of mankind, but it does nothing for the spiritual man inside (Gal. 3:3). Jesus said, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth" (Jno. 4:24).
Yes, in all of the above areas, and many more, people "willfully forget" what God has said and invent for themselves new teachings with a "feel good" religion. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jno. 8:32). And the apostle Paul wrote, "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Tim. 3;16,17).
Let us all go to the Word of God. Read it, study it, learn it. Then let us live by it. Not "forgetting" what the Lord tells us, but keeping that Word constantly in our hearts.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 56, No. 19, May 11, 2007.
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