2 Peter 2:10-22
Stephen Caswell © 2004
Apostasy Of Glide Memorial Church
Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco has this Call to Worship in their printed bulletin on Sunday and recited by the leader: We are all of us Christians; Jews, liberals, Bolsheviks, anarchists, socialists, Communists, Keynesians, Democrats, Civil Righters, Beatniks, ministers, moderate Republicans, pacifists, teach-inners, doctors, scientists, professors, Latin Americans, New Africans, Common Marketers, even Mao Tse-Tung. Doubtless. From Lyndon Johnson to Mao Tse-Tung, we are all Christians. This church once preached the Gospel and from which, several decades ago, a most powerful evangelistic note was sounded. Today, many of its services are performed in the mode of the modern dance. Suggestive gyrations are indulged in and the church has become a haven for dope addicts, hippies, homosexuals, and sex-pots.
Last time we looked at 2 Peter we saw how Peter exposed false teachers. He described their characteristics in the Christian Church. They deceive people for personal gain. The Lord has judged them in the past and will do so again. Tonight, Peter continues his attack on these apostates. Peter describes them as Marked Men awaiting God's judgment. Tonight we will see two things about these marked men. They Have Rejected Authority & They Have Run Astray
1. They Have Rejected Authority
2 Peter 2:10-14: And especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
How have the false teachers rejected authority? By disobeying God’s commandments concerning salvation and the ministry. They reject moral purity to satisfy their own lusts. 2 Peter 2:14 makes it clear that the apostates attend the church meetings for two reasons: firstly, to satisfy their own lusts; secondly, to capture converts for their cause. They keep their eyes open, looking for loose women whom they can entice into sin. Paul warned about similar apostates who creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts. 2 Timothy 3:6. More than one minister has used religion as a cloak to cover his own lusts.
Some women, in particular, are vulnerable in counseling sessions, and these men take advantage of them. Many religious leaders in recent years have been caught in adultery. Jim Bakker, Jim Swaghert, Jim Jones are just a few who have displayed this kind of lust. The founders of the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses were both immoral men. The satisfying of their lusts is the false teachers’ main ambition: they cannot cease from sin. The verb suggests they are unable to stop. Why? 2 Peter 2:18-19 says that they are in bondage. The apostates consider themselves to be free, yet they are in the worst kind of slavery. They are slaves to money and adultery.
Not only are they enslaved but they enslave others too. Beguiling unstable souls presents the picture of a fisherman baiting a hook or a hunter baiting a trap.
The same image is used in James 1:14 where James presents temptation as the baiting of the trap. Satan knows that he could never trap us unless there is some fine bait to attract us in the first place. Satan promised Eve that she and Adam would become like gods if they ate of the forbidden tree, and they took the bait and were trapped.
In Richardson, Texas, they’re still talking about the worldly ways of the First Unitarian Church. On a recent Sunday, Pastor William Nichols invited Diana King, a Unitarian from Fort Worth, to take part in the service. She did, and when she was through, Miss King, an exotic dancer at a Dallas nightspot, was wearing only underwear. The congregation of 200 adults and children watched in fascinated silence as she shed her clothes in time with recorded music. Nichols said the dance fitted very well into their service and nobody complained. Miss King said it was something she had wanted to do for a long time, and she would like to conduct classes for women church members. I would like to do a sermon using the exotic dance, and members of the congregation could join me if they liked, she commented. Today many churches have been seduced by false teachers!
2 Peter 2:10: And especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed.
Firstly, false teachers speak corruptly when they despise God's leaders. The picture here is one of proud people who try to build themselves up as they tear down everybody else. They show no respect for authority and are not afraid to attack and defame people in high positions. They attack anyone who questions their behavior, teaching or their ministry. God has established authority in this world, and when men resist it they are in fact resisting God. God has established authority in the home, in the Church and in society. These apostates reject all authority so that they can indulge their own fleshly desires. They want freedom to live as they please. They have no concern about hurting others while they satisfy their own lusts.
2 Peter 2:10b-12: They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries. Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.
Secondly, these apostates revile even the angels! And they do not even tremble when they do it! The word dignities δόξα literally means glorious ones and refers to the angels. They are so secure in their pride, that they even dare God to judge them. Angels don't speak evil of the wicked but leave all judgment with God. Jude 6-8 speaks about how Michael the archangel confronted Satan where, he said the Lord rebuke you. But these apostates make a lot of noise about things they know nothing about! The Phillips Translation says, they scoff at things outside their own experience. These false teachers don't understand spiritual things because they are so worldly. But that doesn't stop them ridiculing what they don't understand.
When her pupils were noisy in class, one of my teachers used to say, empty barrels make the most noise! And so they do! These apostates behave like wild animals and God will judge them as such. Mad dogs are put down lest they harm others. This will happen to these false teachers.
2 Peter 2:13, 14b: And will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
1. Luxury: These false teachers enjoy living the high life. The words translated riot and sporting carry the meaning of sensual reveling. They also contain the idea of luxury, softness, and extravagance. At the expense of those who support them, the apostates enjoy luxurious living. In our own society, there are preachers who plead for funds for their ministries while they live in expensive houses, drive luxury cars, and wear costly clothes. They eat at the finest restaurants and their followers pay for it all. When we remember that Jesus became poor in order to make us rich, their extravagant lifestyle seems out of place with New Testament Christianity. Not only do they deceive others, but they even deceive themselves!
They can prove from the Bible that their lifestyle is right. Many of the high profile teachers say that Christians are Kings Kids. They say that God wants Christians to healthy, wealthy and prosperous. While the true servant of God trusts the Father to meet his needs and seeks to help people grow through their giving, the apostate trusts his fundraising skills and leaves people in worse shape than he found them. These false teachers are a blemish in the Church. They defile our fellowships. Some Christian Television programs are disgraceful in this area.
Covetousness is the insatiable desire for more — more money, more power, more prestige. The covetous heart is never satisfied. No wonder Jesus warned, Take heed and beware of covetousness. Today, many Christians have followed the values presented by these false teachers. Covetousness dictates their goals in life. Materialistic Christians have no time or money to give to Christ because they consume it on themselves. The truth is that God doesn't want us to be healthy, wealthy and prosperous. God wants us to be holy. He wants us to be faithful stewards of what He gives us, not to emulate the rich.
Firstly, the false teachers are consumed by adultery. They are immoral. This is one reason why they reject God’s Word. They also live sensuously. They prey on loose women to satisfy their own evil desires.
Secondly, they speak against the authorities in Government and in the Church. Romans 13:1 Commands us to be subject to the authorities that God has ordained over us. But, they don't want to be under the laws of society. Beware of preachers that reject authority.
Thirdly, these apostates are covetous. They live luxuriously while they appeal for people to sacrificially support their ministry. They are motivated by materialism. How should Christians respond to false teachers? Don't support them! Check out the ministries that you support.
Secondly, They Have Run Astray
a. Compromised Ministry
2 Peter 2:15-16: They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
But how could preachers of the Gospel be so wrong? Because they have forsaken the truth. These false teachers know the truth but have compromised for the wages of unrighteousness. They know that they can get more money by preaching lies than preaching the truth. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22–25. Balaam is a mysterious character, a Gentile prophet who tried to curse the Jews. Balak, the king of the Moabites, was afraid of Israel, so he turned to Balaam for help. Balaam knew it was wrong to cooperate with Balak, but his heart was covetous and he wanted the money and honor that Balak promised him.
Balaam knew the truth of God and the will of God, yet he deliberately abandoned the right way and went astray. He is a perfect illustration of the apostates in their covetous practices. You can see in Balaam the two aspects of apostasy that Peter emphasized in this chapter: sensual lust and covetousness. He loved money and he led Israel into lustful sin. He was a man who could get messages from God, yet he led people away from God! When you read his oracles, you cannot help but be impressed with his eloquence; yet he deliberately disobeyed God! Because Balaam counseled Balak to seduce Israel, God saw to it that Balaam was judged. He was slain by the sword when Israel defeated the Midianites. Bishop Spong uses eloquent speech when he spreads his heresy too. They can be so convincing while they preach lies and error. Beware!
b. Contradicting Message
2 Peter 2:17: These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
In this section Peter warns believers that false teachers make big promises but don't deliver. It is very important that we understand that the pronoun they in this entire paragraph 2 Peter 2:17–22 refers to the false teachers and not to Christian converts.
1. Wells without water
The Greek word for well πηγή actually means a flowing spring rather than a tranquil well. It is the word our Lord used when He ministered to the Samaritan woman and that John used in describing the satisfaction the saints will experience for all eternity. A spring without water is not a spring at all! A well is still called a well even if the water is gone, but a spring ceases to exist if the water is not flowing. There is in mankind an inborn thirst for reality, for God. Thou hast made us for Thyself, said Augustine, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. People attempt to satisfy this thirst in many ways, and they end up living on substitutes. Only Jesus can give inner peace and satisfaction. He’s the Living Water. These apostates just can't satisfy!
2. Clouds that are carried with a tempest
The picture is that of clouds of fog or mist being driven by a squall over a lake or sea. Clouds ought to announce the possibility of rain, but these clouds only announce that a windstorm is coming. Jude’s description is, Clouds they are without water, carried about by winds Jude 12. Again, there is noise, motion, and something to watch, but nothing profitable happens. The farmer sees the clouds and prays they will empty rain on his parched fields. The false teachers have nothing to give; they are empty. They are just a bunch of wind bags.
3. The mist of darkness
The word translated mist means blackness, gloom, so the blackness of the darkness would be an accurate translation see 2 Peter 2:4. These apostates promise to lead people into the light, but they themselves end up in the darkest part of the darkness! The atmosphere of hell is not uniform: some places will be darker than others. How tragic that innocent people will be led astray by these apostates and possibly end up in hell with them.
4. Slaves Promising Liberty
2 Peter 2:19: While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
These false teachers promise their followers freedom but lead them into bondage. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. Sin always promises freedom but in the end brings bondage. It promises life but instead brings death. Adam and Eve discovered this the hard way. Sin has a way of gradually binding a person until there is no way of escape, apart from the gracious intervention of the Lord. Even the bondage that sin creates is deceitful, for the people who are bound actually think they are free! Too late they discover that they are prisoners of their own appetites and habits. The apostates brought their followers into bondage by means of lies, but our Lord brings us into freedom by means of the truth. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free John 8:32. Jesus was speaking, of course, about the truth of the Word of God.
Those who live by God’s truth enter into more and more freedom, but those who live by lies experience more and more bondage, until the latter end is worse with them than the beginning 2 Peter 2:20. This reminds us of our Lord’s parable in Matthew 12:43–45, the truth of which parallels what Peter has written. Temporary reformation without true repentance and rebirth only leads to greater sin and judgment. Reformation can only clean up the outside it takes regeneration to change the inside.
Since the false teachers have nothing to give, how are they able to attract followers?
The reasons are given in 2 Peter 2:18: For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
Firstly, the teachers are eloquent promoters of their doctrines. They know how to impress people with their vocabulary, inflated words that say nothing. The average person does not know how to listen to and analyze the kind of propaganda that pours out of the mouths and printing presses of the apostates. Many people cannot tell the difference between a religious huckster and a sincere servant of Jesus Christ. Do not be impressed with religious oratory. Check out their message with the Bible.
Secondly, the apostates are so successful is that they appeal to the base appetites of the old nature. This is part of their bait! We must not think of the lusts of the flesh only in terms of sexual sins, for the flesh has other appetites. If we read the list given in Galatians 5:19–21 we can see the many different kinds of bait apostates have available for baiting their traps. Watch out for their fruit.
Thirdly, they are successful because they appeal to immature people, people who have very recently escaped from their old ways. The apostate has no message for the down-and-out sinner, but he does have a message for the new believer. He can trap the new believer with big words and fine compliments. See if they preach on repentance from sin and the cross of Christ.
Satan’s Sly ’Spiders’
Along the banks of the Amazon River lives a species of large, colorful spiders. When one of these creatures spreads itself out, it looks exactly like the blossom of a brilliant flower. Bees and other insects lighting upon it expect to find honey. Instead, the spider secretes a poison that drugs some of them and kills others. This is what the false teachers do to people.
c. Conquered Men
2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to his own vomit, and, a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.
There's no indication that these false teachers have ever experienced the new birth. They had knowledge of salvation and could use the language of the church, but they lacked that true saving experience with the Lord. At one time they had even received the Word of God. But then they turned away from it. They never trusted Christ and became His sheep. Instead of being sheep, they were pigs and dogs — and keep in mind that the dogs in that day were not pampered pets! It was hardly a title of respect and endearment!
What kind of experience did these false teachers have? To use Peter’s vivid images, the pig was washed on the outside, but remained a pig; the dog was cleaned up on the inside, but remained a dog. The pig looked better and the dog felt better, but neither one had been changed. They still had the same old nature, not a new one.
This explains why both animals returned to the old life: it was part of their nature. A pig can stay clean only a while and then must head for the nearest mud hole. We do not condemn a pig for acting like a pig because it has a pig’s nature. The false teachers are simply showing what's on the inside. The apostates promise freedom, but all they can give is bondage. This is because they too are in bondage. They need to be born again and receive a new nature. That's the only way you can change from being a pig to a sheep.
Entangled Among Sausages
According to the St. Petersburg Times, a thief grabbed some sausages in a meat market but discovered to his sorrow that they were part of a string 45 feet long. He lost his balance, stumbled over the string, and finally became so entangled that he couldn’t get up to escape. When the police arrived, the thief was trying to untangle himself from the sausages. In the same way sin has entangled these false teachers.
These false teachers are condemned for their behavior. Not only have they forsaken the truth themselves, they lead others away from it too. They entice people with great promises of life and freedom but only enslave them with chains. They can't deliver people because they themselves are entangled in sin. They have never been freed from it. Because they rejected the truth when they heard it they are forever entangled in sin's bondage. Believers must beware of them. They particularly prey on young Christians and carnal Christians.
Tonight we have seen the conduct of false teachers and their condemnation. God has marked them out for judgment! Let us beware of them. Let us hold firm to the truth and obey it. Amen!
2 Peter 3:17, 18: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.