The Latter Epistles – 2 Peter 2

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.  Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) — if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.  This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord.  But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand.  They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.  Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.  They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.  With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!  They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.  But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.  Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”  If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.  It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.  Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

  • 2 Peter 2:1-22

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

2 Peter 2:1-2 ‘false teachers’: “In chapter 2, Peter sounds a warning against false teachers, and his words are as relevant today as they were when the ink was still wet on the page.
“Today we see these words fulfilled in many ways.  We have seen cults in which the leaders claim to be Jesus Christ and in which members have sometimes been destroyed through horrible mass suicides.  Those are extreme cases.  But there are also more subtle cases where false teachers introduce clever but destructive heresies into individual churches – or even entire denominations.
“Notice that Peter says, ‘they will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who brought them,’ which tells us that these false teachers are not mere atheistic antagonists of Christianity.  These teachers claim to be Christians and profess to love the Lord Jesus, yet their teachings actually deny everything He stood for!
“As a result of these false teachers, says Peter, the truth of the gospel will be brought into disrepute.  People will look down on those who believe the Bible; they will consider believers simpleminded, ignorant folk from the Dark Ages, or worse – narrow-minded bigots.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

2 Peter 2 ‘challenge’: “I have spent many uncomfortable hours in prayer meetings listening to my brethren begging for blessings, but all prayer is comfortable when the heart is having fellowship with God and the inner eyes are looking upon His blessed face.  I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon, but no sermon is poor or long when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus.  A sight of His face will inspire love and zeal and a longing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God.”

  • A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares

2 Peter 2:9 ‘The Lord knows’: “There are narrow limits to our knowledge.  There is a great breadth to our conceit, but the things we really know are few, after all.  He who is wisest will be the first to confess his own ignorance.  Our faith in the superior knowledge of God is a great source of comfort to us.  His knowledge of everything is a sort of omnipresent covering to our naked ignorance.  Knowledge is safer in the hands of God that it would be in our hands.  Only the infinite God is to be trusted with infinite knowledge.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 2: ‘doomed by their iniquity’: “[For if] is better translated ‘since’ because there is no doubt about the history of judgment which Peter is about to recount.  Verses 4-10 are one long sentence, with the conclusion to the ‘since’ clause beginning in verse 9.  Lest anyone think that God is too loving and merciful to judge the wicked false teachers and their deceived people, Peter gives three powerful illustrations of past divine judgment on liars and deceivers.  Though God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), He must judge (2 Thess. 1:7-9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

2 Peter 2:10-22 ‘false teacher’s character and empty teaching’: “The most significant trait of these false teachers is their contempt for authority, which probably refers to leaders in the church.  This contempt even extends to slander of celestial beings (Gk. Doxai, glorious ones).  In Jude 8, which seems to parallel this passage, these celestial beings seem to be Satan and the fallen angels, but it is difficult to determine precisely what form this slander took.  The point here is that proper respect should lead one to be like the angels and to refrain from such arrogance.
“The arrogance of these false teachers leads them to irrational, bold, blasphemous assertions about matters they do not understand.  Like brute beasts, no one can reason with them; they function by means of passion and instinct and will perish someday after living meaningless, bestial lives. …
“Peter uses two metaphors from nature to describe the emptiness of their teaching.  Like ‘springs without water’ (v. 17), they do not deliver in their teachings what they promise.  ‘Mists driven by a storm’ refers to the Palestinian haze that precedes dry weather and suggests the false appearance of moisture. …
“Peter’s assessment of the condition of the teachers and their followers is reminiscent of Hebrews 6:4-6.  Upon coming to Jesus Christ, they escaped the corruption of the world but through this false teaching they are again entangled.  Since Peter says they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning, these people probably never reached full, saving faith.  There is a finality implied by the words ‘turn their backs’ (v. 21) which would not be true of believers who fall into sin.  True believers do not persist in sin (1 John 3:9).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

My Thoughts

Whenever I read a passage of Scripture about false teachers and heresy, it makes my skin crawl.  I have taught in industry for 35 years and in Sunday school for over half of those and continuing to do so today, with other Bible studies here and there.  I was highly cognizant of the thoughts of liability in industry, but I would much prefer saying the wrong thing there to saying something that is misleading on a spiritual level.

In industry, there was always an aspect of safety.  The last twenty years of my career, I went into some steel mills after the accident to teach them how their method of operation contributed to the accident – but from a viewpoint of teaching the right method, and after that was driven home, then comparing the right way to how they had become lax and apathetic.  But there was power in the words that I said.  When I joked around, I had fun with the class, but when I got serious, the class knew that it was important.  I made sure that I was precise so that no one could misinterpret.  Once, when a piece of equipment started to fall apart a few months after I had taught them, the customer threatened to sue our company because I said they could operate the way that they were operating.  When my company president asked, “Did you really tell them that they could operate like that?”  I replied, “I did not tell them to operate that way.  They told me that regardless of how I told them to operate the equipment, that was what they were going to do.  So, I said that if they were that determined to operate the furnace incorrectly, I could not stop them, but don’t be surprised when bricks start flying from the walls.  I’ll give you six months.”  The company president laughed.  He said, “It’s been six months, and they just called to tell me that bricks were flying from the walls.  But somehow, I knew that I could trust you.”

That phone call was easier to handle than when someone called to say something had exploded and people had been injured.  While I worked for my employer, no one had died from not doing what I had taught.  They ignored a lot of what I had taught, but they paid attention when they knew that their lives were at stake.

But when you are a false teacher in the sense of 2 Peter 2, you guide people away from the saving grace of Jesus.

The Serendipity reflection questions that follow touch some on how we react to church teaching that is not biblical.  A question that could be asked is what does your denomination already preach against the Word of God?  Or maybe, what farfetched excuse does the church come up with that justifies turning a blind eye toward sin?  I have known too many churches who turn a blind eye toward everything in order to avoid judging.  “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  Funny, how they use an NIV translation, but when they make that quote, they use the old KJV.  Jesus said those words, but He meant for us to hold ourselves accountable and hold others among our flock to the same accountability.  He never meant to ignore the rules in order to not judge.  But others judge to the point of making Christianity a legalistic institution where no one can experience the grace of God.

We can attain heresy in either direction.

And from the very beginning there have been heresies.  The apostle Paul spends a great deal of time in his letters warning about false teaching.  He emphasized Christ alone, and nothing to do with works.  Peter is echoing those warnings here, but it is human nature to turn away from a free gift.  It is much easier to accept a “free” gift if we must pay for it, paying by money or deeds.  People keep asking “What must I do?”  And in giving them the answer that they wish to receive, we have introduced heresy.  People want a step-by-step procedure, but the truth is that God convicts us of our sins, and we trust in Him; at best, it is a passive activity.

One note about the heading of this blog site:  I mention “Thoughts from Mark ‘Hat’ Rackley.”  I am not tooting my own horn in saying that.  I am saying that I am an individual.  I am not representing any denomination.  I often disagree with the denomination where I attend.  I am simply passing along ideas as I take my journey of faith.  I am doing so to the glory of God, but I am never saying, “Thus says God” when it is just my interpretation.  Thus, these are my thoughts, interpretations, etc.  We must each examine Scripture and make up our own mind.  I have had comments where people disagreed with my point of view.  I am not afraid to admit an improper interpretation.  A Beth Moore tweet a few years ago amused me in that she had been attacked by someone on her twitter account, and her reply was that she often disagreed with that woman (meaning her younger self) quite often.  I think that a perfect response at times.

But Peter breaks down this chapter into a few subparts.  Peter first makes a general warning.

Then he spends a paragraph discussing specific times when God’s wrath was exhibited.  The first example is when the evil spirits were cast into Hades before the time of the flood.  Most scholars refer to these spirits as being those Jesus preached to in 1 Peter 3:19.  The other two examples of divine judgment are found in Genesis.  The global flood is described in Genesis 6-8.  Only Noah and his family were spared, along with the animals on the ark.  The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is described in Genesis 19:1-29.  Abraham pleas with God, in Genesis 18, to save the cities, bargaining to the point that if ten righteous people could be found, the cities would be saved.  Only Lot and his family were spared.  Even then, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Many people today think that the debt was paid on the cross, and there will be no ‘judgment.’  We will all be judged.  Those found in the Book of Life will be judged on our good works and rewarded from Jesus’ judgment seat, but those not found in the Book of Life will be judged at the Great White Throne, held accountable for every sin and then cast into the lake of fire.  Why not get it over with early?  God is giving each person their entire lifetime to repent and turn to Him.  God has much patience, but God is also holy and cannot abide sin that has not been washed away.

In fact, this exposition on God’s judgment is concluded with a special warning about those who ignore God’s authority.  “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority” (2 Peter 2:10a).  Desires of the flesh are not just sexual, as many might think, but could include any desires of this world.  And the issue at hand, in any age, is the despising of authority.  Do we really think that we could do a better job of things?  There have been thousands of years of proof that we cannot.  We can only have a false peace for a short time.  It is false in that there are things brewing that lead to the next war.  We are at war with sin constantly, but nations against nations are constantly arguing, if not openly at war, all claiming their authority is greater than all other authorities, including God.

The next paragraph, starting in the middle of 2 Peter 2:10, discusses blasphemy.  Blasphemy is basically the outpouring of the thought that our authority is greater than God’s.  I wrote a post nearly a year ago after a natural disaster had wiped out the electrical grid in several northeastern states in the USA and millions were without power.  The governors cursed everyone in sight, claiming that after heads rolled as a result of this disaster, they (meaning the various governors) would spend whatever money necessary to guarantee this would never happen again.  My point was that God has more power than the governors combined and if God felt it necessary to repeat the disaster, it might be worse the next time.  None of us should “write a check” that we do not have the power to cash.  The rhetoric at the time was purely political, but it was entirely blasphemous.

But what of the false prophets and teachers that seduce people away from the church, driven by the charismatic leader, to do unspeakable things, including mass suicide?  Are they not equally blasphemous?  The next paragraph equals these “prophets” to Balaam of Bezer (Numbers 22), and the donkey (or ass, depending whether domesticated or wild) made much more sense than did Balaam.

And the two old sayings that end the chapter are quite true.  Dogs will return to their vomit and clean pigs will do anything to “wash” the clean off by wallowing in the mud.  Humans may think that they are above that kind of activity, but history proves that they are not.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How do you know when a preacher is ‘exploiting you with stories they have made up,’ or feeding you empty promises as ‘springs without water’?  How could the dangers mentioned by Peter affect you now?
“2. Do such false teachers upset you as much as Peter?  Why or why not?  Which preachers do you trust more than others?  Why?
“3. Amidst all this bad news, what good news is there?  Would it be truly good news if there were no judgment?
“4. In your experience, does grace ever come through perverse channels (such as the heretics and wicked men depicted here), or only through pure vessels:  Always?  Sometimes?  Never?  Why is that?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

For the false teacher to be a truly false teacher, the “made up” stories in the first question would have to be something that the teacher proports to being true, especially foundational things to church doctrine.  Telling parables as Jesus did could be “made up” stories as illustrations.    Creating an extra gospel with bizarre moral lessons that contradict the Bible is something entirely different.

The third question starts with a basic answer of what is THE “good news,” and the follow-up is the thought provoking part of it.

As for the last question, you might think of church leaders who have been exposed for living a double life or who have stepped away from the pulpit for one reason or another.  How does that affect you and does it destroy the message that they delivered from the pulpit?  Again, the answer to that could lead a group discussion into a variety of issues.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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