For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 12, 2008
Peter continues the thought about the sufficiency of scripture, but takes it in a new and very important direction.
"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. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 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." (2:1-3)
We always need to keep a sharp eye out for false teachers, even among those we consider good people. We always need to base our beliefs on the Word of God, not some man's teaching. When Peter says that these teachers deny the Master who bought them, there are two possibilities: one is that they are genuinely saved but have been carried away by false doctrine, or that they claim to be bought by the Master, but they are not truly born again. I think there are probably false teachers characterized by both, but I would say the vast majority would be the latter- those who claim to know the Lord but they have deceived themselves and are now deceiving others through their homespun teachings.
"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; 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; 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; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (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); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment." (2:4-9)
Peter here gives examples both of the mercy and judgment of God. God must deal with sin, as he did with the demons who fell, the world during the flood and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the last two cases, God preserved righteous men from destruction, Noah and Lot. These two men were far from perfect, but they believed God, and He saved them.
"Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 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, 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. They have eyes full of adultery, trained in greed. insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness." (2:10-16)
Man may be the most unaware of God of any of His creatures. Peter says even the demons do not curse God to His face, but men do all the time. I hope you don't know too many people like the ones Peter describes here, but I do know a few. Mankind can become so absorbed by sin that he gets the warped idea that life is not worth living unless he is indulging in drink or sex or some other kind of sin. Notice that Peter says that some of these people are eating with the church. Apparently the recipients of this letter were not doing right by removing some members who had shown themselves not to have any spiritual desires whatsoever.
"These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 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. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 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. 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. 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.'" (2:17-22, ESV)
These people proclaim themselves liberated, but they are enslaved by their own lusts. Peter says to be especially careful of those who have professed to know the Lord but return to their sin. Peter says here that it is impossible for someone to be genuinely born again and live an utterly wicked lifestyle. Something has to happen in their life. When it doesn't, they are truly worse off than they ever were, because they think they have religion and therefore they are fine. It is a dreadful responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. It is our responsibility, but it is not our responsibility to save them or even to pronounce them saved. God and the confirmation of the Spirit have to do that. Too many Christians motivated by a misguided zeal for numbers or not having a deep enough understanding of what salvation really is, have unfortunately shipwrecked many lives of people, telling them now they are saved and going to heaven because they went through a ritual. This in no way takes away our responsibility to witness, but we should be more careful not to try to fast-talk people into making a profession or leading people to think that parroting a ritual makes them a Christian. God gives the increase; our job is to faithfully proclaim the entire gospel, including the parts that may offend some people. If you offend someone with the truth, at least they see where they are and could respond positively the next time. Sugar-coating the Gospel does more harm than good.