I became well acquainted with unsteadiness after contracting transverse myelitis 23 years ago. For a few months afterward, I couldn’t walk on my own. I progressed from a walker to a cane to finally walking without support. But for a long time afterward, anything from uneven ground to someone walking by me quickly or brushing against me would throw me off balance. I had a few falls if I couldn’t grasp anything firm. Though my internal balance mechanism has vastly improved since then, I still have moments of unsteadiness now.
So the phrase “unsteady souls” stood out to me in a recent reading of 2 Peter 2 in the ESV. Other translations say unstable, unestablished, unsettled.
Peter is talking in this chapter – throughout this whole epistle, really – about false prophets and teachers. Chapter 2, verse 14 says “They entice unsteady souls.”
How do false teachers entice these souls? 1 Peter speaks of the false prophets’ sensuality, lust, greed, passion, so they “entice by sensual passions” (verse 18). James 1:14 uses the same Greek word for “entice,” which carries the idea of baiting, alluring, deceiving, when it says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” They “despise authority” (verse 10). “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (verse 19). They “exploit you with false words” (verse 3). They’re blasphemous (verses 10-13).
Probably most of the people who fall away to false teachers are not saved in the first place, but weak or new believers are susceptible as well. A true Christian can’t lose his or her salvation, but a believer can get tangled in false doctrines to their own confusion as well as that of everyone on their sphere of influence. But even those of us who think we’re strong need to “take heed lest we fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
How can we make sure we’re not unsteady or unstable spiritually? Peter tells us:
- Believe on Jesus as Savior and Lord . “Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10).
- Know His Word. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV). Know it not just for facts, but to know Him (2 Peter 1:2-3)
- Live out God’s Word. Be doers, not just hearers. Because of the above, “make every effort to supplement your faith” with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love (2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV)
- Rest on the Bible’s sure foundation. Know that God’s Word is not “a cunningly devised fable,” but is a “more sure word of prophecy” than even the transfiguration Peter was an eyewitness to. (2 Peter 1:16-19, KJV)
- Know that Scripture comes from God. “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, ESV)
- Look to Him. After listing several instances of punishment coming to wrongdoers, Peter assures us “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (verse 2 Peter 2:9, KJV).
- Confess sin to Him, seek His grace to overcome and resist it: “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14, ESV).
- Don’t twist the Scriptures as the unstable do. “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16). The unsteady twist (wrest in the KJV) the very thing which could stabilize them. We read it in context so we understand its meaning. We don’t wrangle it to make it say what we want it to say. We don’t adjust it to us: we adjust ourselves to it.
- Be watchful. “Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (2 Peter 3:17, ESV).
- Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18, ESV)
- Listen to sound teaching. Contrast the characteristics Peter lists of false teachers in 2 Peter to what he says about godly shepherds in 1 Peter 5. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Seek to feed our souls His truth rather than feeding our own desires.
Jesus said the one who hears his words and does them is like a man who built his house on a rock which was unshaken by winds and flood waters.
So we watch ourselves, that we’re not being led away of wrong desires. We read and listen to God’s Word as it’s written, in context, not trying to twist it. We listen to pastors and teachers who faithfully proclaim God’s Word. We we obey it. We get to know our Savior better and better and remind ourselves of His truth. and we keep growing spiritually. Doing all of these things might bring persecution, which Peter discusses often in both of his letters. But we can trust God to keep us and deliver us.
Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Psalm 119:133, ESV