2 Peter 2 - False Teachers and Deliverance of the Saint

INTRODUCTION: Chapter one of Peter's letter positively asserts both the reliability of scripture and of the teaching of the Lord's apostles. Peter wanted to be sure to leave behind some writing that would embody the truth after he was no longer available to teach in person. In chapter two he presents the dangers of false teaching that saints must be prepared to recognize and refute. Those who distort the truth of scripture will even infiltrate the church to try to draw away disciples to themselves. When they develop many followers the church as a whole may be maligned because observers outside the church will not know the marks of an aberrant church. In addition, any person who may be seeking the truth about salvation in Christ Jesus will be drawn away from the truth if they are part of a church that has developed such aberrations or heresies. Those who dilute and distort the truth, and use outright deceptive methods to elevate their style of teaching or their purported understanding of scripture, do so for personal gain, monetarily or otherwise, but God will hold them responsible in the end.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible [WEB].


A - FALSE TEACHERS WILL BE AMONG BELIEVERS

"1 But false prophets also arose among the people, as false teachers will also be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. 2 Many will follow their immoral ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned."

COMMENTS: Peter is reminding his readers that in the past the children of Israel had false prophets among them who did not hear from the LORD, but spoke their own thoughts and presented them as prophecy. Peter wants Christians to be aware that the same type of situation will happen when false teachers work their way into the church. They will misuse scripture as they teach improper or distorted variations of doctrine, claiming it to be Christian, even to the point of denying that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. In the final days of the southern kingdom of Israel, a true prophet wrote these words about the spiritual downfall. Jeremiah 5 "30 An astonishing and horrible thing has happened in the land. 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority; and my people love to have it so. What will you do in the end of it?" The Lord Jesus warned that true doctrine is a narrow pathway to eternal life, and false prophets will try to convince otherwise. Matthew 7 "13 Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. 14 How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it. 15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves." Jesus said in another passage that the deceptions of the false leaders will be almost convincing enough to lead off course even those chosen by God. Matthew 24 "24 For there will arise false christs, and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones."

As Paul was nearing the end of his ministry, he warned church leaders of those wolves who would stealthily enter the flock of believers in the church. Acts 20 "28 Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." The apostle John in his second letter spoke of the many deceivers who have gone out into the world denying that Jesus is the Christ of God. 2 John 1 "7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who don't confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist." The development of destructive heresies can be a very subtle process, as even in the first century the Jews followed varied sects (i.e. Pharisees, Sadducees) of their faith which had some contradictory points of belief. But Peter herein is speaking of variations of teaching that are so deviant from the truth in scripture as to become eternally destructive to the soul of man.

Paul used his knowledge of different beliefs between two sects of the Jews so as to cause division in those who were trying to condemn him because of his teaching about Christ. Acts 23 "6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" 7 When he had said this, an argument arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess all of these." Later, when Paul was being held by Roman authorities, his Jewish accusers referred to Paul as belonging to a sect. Acts 24 "5 For we have found this man to be a plague, an instigator of insurrections among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." Paul then spoke in his own defense. Acts 24 "14 But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect {or heresy}, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets; 15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 Herein I also practice always having a conscience void of offense toward God and men." And Later Paul again spoke in his own defense, using the term "sect for his previous identification as a Pharisee. Acts 26 "having known me from the first, if they are willing to testify, that after the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." For those who follow the distinctives of their subgroup of a religion, they would use the term sect to describe those of the same religion who have some different but at least marginally tolerated distinctives. When there is strong, sometimes even violent disagreement on doctrine, the English term heresy would be applicable. In the above passages the same Greek word was sometimes translated as sect and other times as heresy. Such varied points of view still exist today, making guidance by the Holy Spirit a critical element to correctly apply the warnings of the apostles, so as not to be drawn so far away from true faith and into destructive heresies.


B - THE LORD KNOWS HOW TO DELIVER THE GODLY OUT OF TEMPTATION

"3 In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn't linger, and their destruction will not slumber. 4 For if God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and didn't spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds): 9 the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment;"

COMMENTS: The deceptive words of the mercenary leaders are borne from their excessive desire for personal gain from others without a genuine regard to the needs of those they lead. But Peter says they will by no means escape final judgment for their duplicity and exploitation, and he cites cases from scriptural history to assert the point that God's judgment is consistent and complete, even for angels who have betrayed the Lord. The great flood and the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are actual events in history that are also examples of the final complete destruction of all others who are ungodly. But God provided a way of escape from those judgments by his grace, while reserving final judgment for the ungodly, and that continues to be true just as it was when Peter wrote his letter in the first century after the Lord's resurrection.

Tartarus is from the Greek word for the deepest abyss of hell, corresponding to Gehenna of the Jews, and it appears only here in the New Testament in reference to unfaithful angels. The demons that were in control of the man in the country of the Gadarenes begged Jesus not to send them into the abyss. Luke 8 "28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, "What do I have to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torment me!" 29 For Jesus was commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For the unclean spirit had often seized the man. He was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters. Breaking the bands apart, he was driven by the demon into the desert. 30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion," for many demons had entered into him. 31 They begged him that he would not command them to go into the abyss." the Devil and his fallen angels are aware of that which awaits them. Another writer of scripture had a message very similar to that of Peter about those who will infiltrate the church. Jude 1 "4 For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this condemnation: ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into indecency, and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ. 5 Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who didn't believe. 6 Angels who didn't keep their first domain, but deserted their own dwelling place, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire."

The apostle Paul had a solemn warning for the church at Rome. Romans 16 "17 Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For those who are such don't serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent." It is comforting to take a second look at Peter's two examples, that of Noah's family and that of Lot, to reassure us that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation while keeping those who reject grace, under punishment for the day of judgment. And our further comfort is to realize that those who have been saved from condemnation at the final judgment, had the sin nature of Adam, but had accepted the grace of God. Therefore we who are saved by grace should joyfully praise the Lord that he does indeed know how to deliver, from the temptations that are continually part of the fallen world, those he has cleansed by his own fully acceptable sacrifice.


C - SOME WILL FORSAKE THE RIGHT WAY TO FOLLOW THE WAY OF BALAAM

"10 But chiefly those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries; 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, don't bring a railing judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as unreasoning creatures, born natural animals to be taken and destroyed, speaking evil in matters about which they are ignorant, will in their destroying surely be destroyed, 13 receiving the wages of unrighteousness; people who count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, spots and blemishes, revelling in their deceit while they feast with you; 14 having eyes full of adultery, and who can't cease from sin; enticing unsettled souls; having a heart trained in greed; children of cursing; 15 forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing; 16 but he was rebuked for his own disobedience. A mute donkey spoke with a man's voice and stopped the madness of the prophet."

COMMENTS: Peter says there will be some who are drawn by their own desires for the comforts of the present world to the point of forsaking the right way that had been before them. They will receive the just payment for the unrighteous deeds they choose to perform, as they represent blemishes within the church. Paul wrote that the Lord will have no blemishes on his bride, the church {assembly}. Ephesians 5 "25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Another passage gives parallel support to the examples of Peter. Jude 1 "11 Woe to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in Korah's rebellion." We have this clear statement from the apostle John, 1 John 2"16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn't the Father's, but is the world's." And we have victory over the temptations of the world with this guidance and assurance from Paul, Galatians 5 "16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfil the lust of the flesh."


D - THE BOND SERVANTS OF CORRUPTION

"17 These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. 18 For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error; 9 promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is rought into bondage by whoever overcomes him. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, "The dog turns to his own vomit again," and "the sow that has washed to wallowing in the mire.""

COMMENTS: The above passage is another that has sections parallel to the strong descriptive wording of Jude's letter. Jude 1 "12 These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. 14 About these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16 These are murmurers and complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaks proud things), showing respect of persons to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you that "In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit." Perhaps the most important element provided by Jude is found in the last verse of his passage, where we find that those described were never truly saved because they did not have the Holy Spirit.

Peter uses two proverbs to describe the state of those who have been exposed to the truth, but turn away from it. Proverbs 26 "11 As a dog that returns to his vomit, so is a fool who repeats his folly." That comparison describes an inherent pattern that will be repeated because it is part of the basic nature of the animal and of the man. The second proverb, though not found elsewhere in scripture, describes an externally applied change that will be discarded for a return to the natural instinct. It was not necessary for Peter to include a second half to either proverb because his intent was clearly applied to those being described. This speaks of outward appearances of service to the Lord when the heart has not been changed by God's merciful gift of the new nature. Peter has already told his readers in the first chapter of this letter. 2 Peter 1 "3 seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust."

As with Peter, Paul declares that the message of the apostles is the truth from God to expose error, and he described why some will not receive it. 2 Corinthians 4 "1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we don't faint. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish; 4 in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. 5 For we don't preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake; 6 seeing it is God who said, "Light will shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The blackness of darkness has been reserved forever for those who reject the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, to instead utter great swelling words of emptiness to entice others in the lusts of the flesh by licentiousness, promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption. But for all those who follow the true and living God by grace through faith, Christ Jesus must have the preeminence in all that represents his name.


--- Reflections in prayer ---

I thank you Lord for Peter's letter within scripture to warn of signs of decay and doctrinal deviation that will be repeated within the assembly known as your church. Christians must continually be on guard to avoid the influence of those who allow the lust of the world to be the true motivation in their lives. Those who are very skilled in leadership, but have not been personally cleansed by faith in your perfect sacrifice and have not received the Holy Spirit to give them the power to resist the flesh, will share in the condemnation that God meted to those who were like them in previous generations. But you Lord will deliver the godly out of worldly temptations. As I consider how it is possible to come so close to following your way, but then to be carried away in the same error demonstrated by Balaam, I humbly ask you to guard my heart because that is my only hope from being a bond servant of corruption through my inherent fleshly lusts. It is your precious and exceedingly great promises of your divine power that is working in me for life and godliness, because you have called me by your own glory and virtue. I want the remainder of my life to bring praise to your name. Hallelujah to the risen Lamb of God! Amen.

2 Peter Chapter 1 - A Precious Faith.
2 Peter Chapter 3 - Remember the Words of the Prophets and Apostles.

Published 14 August 2012