I recently preached from 2 Peter chapter 3 in my pastor’s absence. I was reminded all over again through my study and preparation why we do Sunday School. When you read 2 Peter 3, it is very apparent why Bible study groups and the church are so important. Let me explain.
2 Peter was written to address the growing problem of false teachers in the church. In particular, these false teachers denied the physical return of Christ (see chapter 3). If you go back to chapter 2, verses 13-16, you’ll see that these same teachers had cast off all restraint and lived ungodly lives. That’s what happens when you don’t believe you have to be accountable to someone – you become a law unto yourself and live any way you like.
As I read chapter 3 and Peter’s warnings to false teachers (and to the church about the false teachers), I find the reasons why our work today in the church is so important.
- Jesus is coming back. The false teachers (“scoffers” in some translations) denied the physical return of Christ, saying that “all things continue just as they have from the beginning.” Their argument was a form of Uniformitarianism; it contradicted the Bible’s viewpoint of Catastrophism. It’s a sober reminder that whether or not we choose to believe it, Jesus is going to return to earth in order to gather His people. God is not absent from human history. The Lord will return, and that makes evangelism, especially evangelism through the Sunday School, so important. Which leads me to point #2…
- God is not on our timetable and desires that none should perish. Peter reminded his first-century readers that God doesn’t keep time the way we do, so anyone who believed that Jesus wasn’t going to return was just dead wrong. Peter wrote those words just 35 years or so after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Now we are over 2000 years later, and still no sign of Jesus. We must be extra diligent to not allow ourselves to grow comfortable and complacent in our expectation of Jesus’ return. Since we do not know when Jesus is going to return, there are all kinds of implications for God’s people, the primary one being that the “delay” of Jesus’ return is because God desires that no one perishes in their sin. The main job of Sunday School isn’t Bible teaching (although that is a big part of the work of the Sunday School). The primary job of Sunday School is the evangelization of people. Jesus’ “delay” is giving us time to share the gospel with men, women, boys, and girls.
- Jesus’ return should affect our conduct, our thoughts, and our view of people. In 2 Peter 3:11-13 we learn that because Jesus will return, and because the earth, yes even the universe, is going to be dissolved (literally “loosened” and “set free” in the original language), that should motivate us to have holy conduct and godliness (v.11). Since Jesus’ return in imminent and we are waiting for His return, Peter tells us to “make every effort to be found without spot or blemish” and to “regard the patience of the Lord as salvation” (v.14-15). Because Jesus hasn’t returned yet, we know that we will one day give an account to Him of everything we’ve done; while we wait, Peter tell us to share the gospel and regard the extra time as an opportunity to share the gospel with lost people everywhere. People are made for eternity, and where they spend eternity is determined by what they decide about Jesus before (1) they die or (2) He returns.
So why should we “do Sunday School?” Why go to the trouble and expense of staffing and training group leaders? Why build expensive buildings? Answer: we do Sunday School because of the reality of Jesus’ imminent return. We do Sunday School because we want to be diligent in presenting the gospel creatively and often. We do Sunday School because God loves people, He desires that none should perish in their sin, and He has given us the message of redemption. So to that end, we organize, teach, and share the gospel through Sunday School as a sign of our obedience to His command to “regard the patience of the Lord as salvation.”
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