2 PETER 2
-How important are school teachers and why? (Holy Spirit; Pastor, etc.)
-Literally, what does a false teacher look like?
-How can we know what a false teacher looks like?
2 Peter 2: False Prophets and Teachers
2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
-What do you think of Peter’s writing?
-Compare chapter 1 with chapter 2. (John Piper: The main point of 2 Peter 1 which everything else supports or elaborates is verse 10: “Brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election; for if you do this, you will never fall.” Peter wants us to enjoy the certainty of our salvation. He wants us to be so firmly established in God that we cannot be shaken by any temptation or false teaching. In 3:17 he draws his letter to a close with this admonition: “Beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.” Peter devotes his last will and testament (1:14, 15) to help us be firm and stable and unshakable in our faith.
And now comes chapter 2, and a very significant change in Peter’s approach. I say a change in his approach, not his goal. His goal is still to make us firm and stable and unshakable in our faith. But his approach is very different. Chapter 1 is mainly an encouragement to avail ourselves of God’s power to lead lives of godliness and love. Chapter 2 is mainly a warning against the destruction that will befall those who don’t avail themselves of this power. If chapter 1 is the carrot, chapter 2 is the crack of the whip over our heads. There are no commands, no admonitions, no imperatives in chapter 2; just pure, terrifying description of what will happen to those who fall prey to the false teachers in the church.
Wherever important truth is at stake, counterfeits will be offered.)
-What does a false teacher sound like? How can we spot a false teacher, according to the text? (We may detect them by their exaltation of themselves instead of Christ; their counterfeit talk and “great swelling words”; their emphasis on making money; their great claims that they can change people; and their hidden lives of lust and sin.)
-The first thing we learn about them is that they are denying the Master who bought them (v1). What does this mean? (As with most heresies, Jesus Christ is in some way being diminished. Some aspect of his personhood or his work is being denied. But Peter never tells us what aspect. In fact, you get the impression from chapter 2 that the error of the false teachers was an error in morality, not doctrine. But the two are never really separate. How you live and how you esteem Christ always rise and fall together.
Notice verse 10: “they indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. They are bold and self-willed.” They “despise authority” because they cannot stand any controls on their passions. This helps us to understand verse 1, where it says they deny the Master who bought them. They don’t want a master. A master means authority and submission.
But it seems almost impossible that such a thing as arrogant sexual immorality could actually be taught in the church. What did the false teachers say? Verse 3 tells us, “In their greed they will exploit you with false words.” They didn’t just come in and seduce people with good looks. They taught. They gave reasons why people should abandon their rules about sexuality. They probably would have said, “It’s OK for kids to experiment sexually. It’s OK for a couple to live together out of wedlock. It’s OK for a husband and wife to gratify their desires with a prostitute or another person’s partner.” There is nothing new about the contemporary assault on the sanctity of sexual intercourse in marriage. Jesus wasn’t gone for more than 30 years before false teachers in the church were announcing open sex as a legitimate Christian lifestyle.
You can see it in verse 19: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” Sound familiar? The push for free sex was there long before we had any puritanical or Victorian ethic to rebel against. The false teachers were taking the grace of God and perverting it into licentiousness (Jude 1:4). They were saying that what we do with our bodies does not matter, and in fact the more sensuality you pursue, the more you show your true Christian freedom from the law. In the name of grace and in the name of Christ they perverted Christian moral teaching, and in that way denied the Master who bought them.)
-Is Peter teaching that believers can lose their salvation? Note “bought” and vss 20ff.
How can these false teachers, who were said to be among the people, and whom the Lord had bought (agorasanta, “redeem”), end up in everlasting destruction? Several suggestions have been offered: (1) They were saved but lost their salvation. But this contradicts many other Scriptures (e.g., John 3:16; 5:24; 10:28-29). (2) “Bought” means the Lord created them, not that He saved them. But this stretches the meaning of agorazō (“redeem”). (3) The false prophets merely said they were “bought” by Christ. This, however, seems to read into the verse. (4) They were “redeemed” in the sense that Christ paid the redemptive price for their salvation, but they did not apply it to themselves and so were not saved. Christ’s death is “sufficient” for all (1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2), but is “efficient” only for those who believe. This is a strong argument for unlimited atonement (the view that Christ died for everyone) and against limited atonement (the view that Christ died only for those whom He would later save).
(Peter is not teaching that God’s elect can lose their salvation. He is most definitely teaching that church members can be lost, and people who make outward professions of faith and even begin to clean up their lives can turn away from Christ and be lost. But in verse 22 he explains to us in a proverb that we should not be overly surprised at this: dogs characteristically return to their vomit; and no matter how clean you make a pig on the outside, if it is still a pig, it will return to the mire. In other words, those who leave the way of righteousness, never to return, simply show that their inner nature had never been changed. This was Peter’s way of saying what 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that it might be plain that they are all not of us.” Or as Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Or as Hebrews puts it, “We share in Christ if we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14). Or as Paul says, “I preached to you the gospel which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2). The whole New Testament is agreed: there is no salvation apart from persevering faith. And persevering faith always works itself out in the way of righteousness. Therefore, to abandon the way of righteousness is to exclude oneself from salvation.
But this can never happen to God’s elect. If it could, verse 10 of chapter 1 would be nonsense. There Peter says, “Be the more zealous to confirm your call and election.” If the elect could be lost, there would be no advantage in confirming our election. The point of verse 10 is that the elect will never fall but will enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And therefore we should be utterly earnest about confirming our election. And 2 Peter 2 was written to help us do just that.
-Was Apollos a false teacher (Acts 18:24-28)? Explain the difference. (Please keep in mind that a false teacher is not a person who teaches false doctrine out of ignorance. Apollos taught mistakenly the message and the baptism of John, but he was not a false teacher. Many of the great leaders of the church in centuries past have held interpretations of minor matters that we may not believe are biblical; still, we cannot call them false teachers.)
-Why do false teachers do it? (False teachers are professed believers who know the truth but who deliberately teach lies in the hope of promoting themselves and getting financial gain from their followers (2:3, 14). They are able to live in sin to please themselves (2:10, 13–14, 18–19). They use deceptive means (2:1, 3) and twist the Word of God to suit their fancies.)
-If false teachers are so evil, why do you think God allows them to teach in his church?
-Isn’t God’s goodness or greatness brought into question by delaying their judgment?
-Peter gives us 3 illustrations of God’s patience and judgment. VVS 4-10 all one sentence in the Greek. (Angels-power/Noah-numbers/Sodom & Gomorrah-Lot)
-What “freedom” do false teachers promise vs 19: Freedom from sin? From laws? From judgment? From ethical obligations to others and to Christ? All of the above?
-How is their idea of freedom different from true Christian freedom? (I think it’s possible to get a pretty good idea how they argued. In 1 Peter 2:16 Peter says, “Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as slaves of God.” The false teachers were right to promise people freedom. The call to freedom is at the heart of New Testament faith. But this was not a call to give free reign to your passions. For then you are really a slave of corruption as verse 19 says. The apostolic call to freedom recognizes 1) that Christ had died to free us from the guilt and power of sin; 2) that we are free from the law in the sense that we need no longer strive to keep it in our own strength; and 3) that we are given new hearts by the Holy Spirit so that freely we delight in holiness. -The techniques of false teachers are only workable with the naive, for the heretics are like a 300-pound man selling diet books—they promise . . . freedom but are themselves hopelessly enslaved by depravity (John 8:34-36). Their empty and boastful promises of liberty are reminiscent of Satan’s words to Eve (Gen. 3:5).)
-What can we do about false teachers? For the time being we cannot stop them except by teaching the Word sincerely, but one day God will expose them and judge them.
-What, then, do we learn for our life today? First, the church is not immune to false teachers. We must make every effort to keep ourselves rooted and grounded in the Word of God lest we lose our stability and be carried away in error (3:17).
Second, advocating sexual immorality is a heresy. It is an offense against Jesus Christ the Lord. The practice and propagation of sexual activity outside marriage is a denial of the Master who bought us, because he died for us to free us from the domination of sexual passion. We should glorify him in our bodies by submitting to his pattern of sexual fulfillment. There is nothing new about free sex. And we should resist it today as resolutely as the apostles of old.
Third, divine judgment is coming upon those who deny Christ in this way. And it is heartless to encourage people to go about their business and live their lives as though nothing very significant were at stake. Heaven and hell hang on whether we follow Christ in righteousness or deny him in immorality.
Fourth, you can be saved from judgment if you repent and trust the Master who bought you by his blood. When it says the Lord knows how to deliver the godly (v. 9), it doesn’t mean he only delivers the perfect. Lot was far from perfect. If you put your trust in Jesus Christ and press on to love what he loves, “then you will never fall, and there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The point of verses 4–10 is to warn us that since God has punished unrighteousness in the past, he will punish it in the future. Peter illustrates God’s wrath with three cases in verses 4–8 and then draws his conclusion in verses 9 and 10
To make the lesson of history perfectly plain Peter states it in verses 9 and 10: “So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial (like Noah and Lot), and he knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” And, of course, Peter doesn’t just mean God knows how to do it. It means he has done it in the past; he will do it in the future. Destruction is not sleeping.
Verse 12 adds that the false teachers are like animals in two senses. First, they are utterly ignorant of what they speak. Their reviling at the glories of Christ is like a wolf howling at the sunrise. And, second, they will be destroyed like the animals. They will come to and end in judgment, and all their howling will be silenced.
Four views are possible. (20-24)
(1) Some suggest that the word “they” refers to the false teachers rather than the targets of their attack (e.g., Edwin A. Blum, “2 Peter” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12:282).
(2) But the connection between the end of verse 18 (“people who are just escaping from those who live in error”) and the beginning of verse 20 (“if they have escaped the corruption of the world”) seems to favor a reference to the unstable, unsaved people who were “listeners” of the gospel (v. 18). Weirsbe: Peter is describing false Christians, people who merely wash off the pollutants on the outside (this is “religious” reformation), but never receive the new nature on the inside. You can wash a dog or a pig, but the animal does not change its basic nature.
(3) Others think the reference might encompass both the false teachers and their “converts,” who can lose their salvation. This, however, runs counter to many passages that assure believers of eternal salvation.
(4) Another view is that new believers are warned against being “caught up into a life of carnality . . . only to find that there is even less pleasure, less fulfillment than before they were saved” (Duane A. Dunham, “An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18-22,” Bibliotheca Sacra 140. January=March, 1983:51).
The primary focus of 2 Peter 2:5 is the unsparing hand of God on the antediluvian civilization, the ancient world with its ungodly people. Do false teachers today think they can escape God’s judgment because of their large numbers? Peter reminded them and those who are the targets of their delusions that God can judge evil even when it involves the entire human race (with the exception of only eight people).
In Genesis 19 Lot hardly comes across as a righteous man; possibly godliness was not a consistent mark in his daily conduct. But in his standing before God he was a justified man
-What is the error of Balaam? These false prophets were like animals (2 Peter 2:12), and their prototype, Balaam son of Beor, was reproved by an animal (Num. 22:28, 30). In addition to his mercenary mentality (he loved the wages [misthon] of wickedness [adikias]; cf. the same Gr. words in 2 Peter 2:13), Balaam actually urged the Moabites to trick Israelite men into illicit relationships with Moabite women, thereby introducing immorality into the camp (Num. 31:16; cf. Num. 25:1-3; Rev. 2:14). The donkey . . . spoke (phthenxamenon, “was making a sound”; also used in 2 Peter 2:18), stopping the prophet in his madness (paraphronian, lit., “being apart or away from right thinking”; used only here in the NT). A mere donkey, a dumb animal, was smarter than Balaam! The false teachers, like Balaam, had sinned so long and so intensely that their sin had become a form of insanity. Also today many people have so thoroughly given themselves over to avarice and debauchery that their lifestyles are spiritually insane. Money and sex (even in the name of religion) continue to bring spiritual ruin to many people. This is “the error of Balaam” (Jude 11), his way which is diverse from the straight way.
I. The Corruption of these False Teachers (2:1, 3a, 4–10, 12, 13b–17b, 22)
A. Their identity (2:1a, 2, 4–9, 15–16)
1. Prophets and teachers (2:1a, 2)
2. Fallen angels (2:4)
3. The pre-Flood world (2:5)
4. Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6–9)
5. Balaam (2:15–16)
B. Their iniquity (2:1b–1c, 3a, 10, 12, 13b–14, 17a–17b, 22)
1. The symbols for these men (2:12b, 13b, 17a–17b, 22)
a. Brute beasts (2:12b)
b. Stains upon Christianity (2:13b)
c. Dried-up springs of water (2:17a)
d. Unstable, storm-driven clouds (2:17b)
e. Dogs returning to their vomit (2:22a)
f. Hogs wallowing in the mud (2:22b)
2. The sin of these men (2:1b–1c, 3a, 10, 12a, 14, 18
a. Propagating destructive heresies (2:1b)
b. Denying Christ (2:1c)
c. Materialism (2:3a, 14c)
d. Lust and adultery (2:10a, 14a)
e. Pride and arrogance (2:10b)
f. Scoffing at the “glorious ones” (2:10c)
g. Blasphemy (2:12a)
h. Seducing the unstable (2:14b, 18b)
i. Boasting (2:18a)
j. Hypocritical lying (2:19–21)
II. The Condemnation of These False Teachers (2:1b, 1d, 3b, 11, 12c, 13a, 17c)
A. They will be judged not by angels (2:11).
B. They will experience a swift and terrible end (2:1d).
C. They will be caught and destroyed like wild beasts (2:12c).
D. They will be destroyed (2:3b).
E. They will reap all that they have sowed (2:13a).
F. They will be consigned to the blackest darkness (2:17c).