Studies in 2 Peter. Presentation 04. You Can’t Take God Too Seriously Chapter 2v1-11. Presentation 04. Introduction. Peter wants his Christian readership to enjoy the certainty of their salvation and has reminded them of God's precious
Peter wants his Christian readership to enjoy the certainty of
their salvation and has reminded them of God's precious
and very great promises, which equip believers to "escape
the corruption that is in the world because of passion"
1v4, and to grow in grace 1v 6-7. This assurance does
not rest on inward, subjective feelings but the
objective work of Christ witnessed to by both the
apostles and the prophetic word of God.
In Ch. 2 Peter changes his approach to one of
warning! He now warns against the
destruction of both false teachers and
those who embrace their teaching.
What would we think of the commanders of the coalition forces in Afghanistan if they trivialised war? If it were no more than a game to them, so that they failed to consider that their decisions could mean the death or injury of sons, husbands and fathers? We would think them heartless!
Is a minister of the gospel any less heartless if he
trivialises preaching and loses sight of
the eternal welfare of his hearers?
It is not heartless to give the
impression that in the matters of
doctrine, faith, and obedience
we are all playing some
kind of a game?
It is heartless to give the impression that the purpose of Christian preaching is no more than a form of psychotherapy, designed to make people feel better [that is how many people view preaching!] It’s heartless, to obscure the purpose of the gospel and so fail to hold up before men ‘life and death’, ‘salvation and judgement’.
In preaching eternal issues are at stake!
Recognising this restrains the preacher from
engaging in a banal pre-match pep-talk on
the power of positive thinking. It further
rouses in him a holy indignation against
all false teaching! Life is not a game hence
in these verses we find some of the
grimmest warnings found in scripture.
But how are we supposed to recognise false teaching? Peter provides an identikit picture for us. First, notice in v1 that their approach is ‘subtle’. They ‘secretly introduce’ their teaching. It is designed to flatter and appeal to fallen nature. Think of the subtlety of Satan’s approach to Eve in Eden. Do not expect false teachers to stand up and shout out that he would like to introduce heresy, which has been designed to undermine your confidence in God. Instead, it silently glides in under the radar and before we know it biblical truths are being turned on their heads.
Peter identifies the focus of this teaching as ‘denying the sovereign Lord who bought them’ v1. As with most heresies, Jesus Christ is in some way being diminished. Some aspect of his person or his work is being denied. Now we might think that the error outlined in this passage is one of morality and not doctrine but
the two are inseparable. How we live and how
we esteem Christ always rise and fall together.
It is possible to live such disobedient lives that
Christ is ridiculed by our very behaviour.
Secondly, Peter points out a clear relationship between false teaching and loose living and speaks of those who ‘follow their shameful ways’ v2. False teaching makes it easier for prospective followers to live the kind of life that appeals to one’s fallen nature. As a result they are able to justify to themselves any deviation from a biblical morality.
The identikit picture in the text appears
to indicate that the false teachers were
propagating sexual immorality
in the name of Christian freedom.
People will flock to such teaching if they think it gives the immoral desires in their hearts even tacit approval. Such false teaching produces a community of followers whose hearts
have clearly not been transformed by God’s power
and whose minds and wills have refused to submit
to God’s rule. As a result, their witness to the world,
far from bringing glory to the God the profess
to worship, brings the cause of the gospel
into disrepute. In this way they belittle
Christ and "deny the Master who
These leaders did not merely seduce people with their charismatic personalities - they taught! They provided arguments and gave permission to their hearers to abandon biblical morality. They say, "It's OK for teenagers to experiment sexually. It's OK for couples to live together out of wedlock.
It's OK to have fun at a wife-swapping weekend."
What we call ‘today’s new morality’ isn’t really
new. In Peter’s day false teachers in church were
announcing that open sex was a legitimate
Christian lifestyle. Today, biblical morality is called
“old fashioned”! Well here’s a newsflash;
the enlightened new morality of the C21st is
over 2000 years old!
Thirdly, the false teacher’s life is marked by ‘arrogance and irreverence’. This is pointed up in v10-11. While in 1 Cor.5:1 Paul writes, "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. And you are arrogant."
Arrogance and immorality go hand in hand. cfv10: "they
follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise
authority. They are bold and arrogant."
They "despise authority" because they
can’t stand any restraint on their
passions and so ‘deny the Master who
bought them’. They don't want a
master. Why? A master means authority
and submission and they despise authority.
You may ask, “Why would anyone want to teach a false gospel - a powerless gospel?” The answer is found in v3.
This is the fourth, thing to notice about the false
teachers, their goal is not to bring spiritual
enrichment to their followers but to use,
‘exploit’ and impoverish them.
They are driven, not by a caring compassion
but by a grasping ‘greed’. And that greed
need not be limited to material gain, but a
greed for recognition and fame, for control
Peter isn’t surprised by this state of affairs cf. v1 "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you..."
Whenever important truth is at stake, counterfeits appear. There were false teachers in the days of the O.T. church, the N.T. church and so should we be surprised to find them around today? Jesus foretold their appearance. Because a man holds office in the church does not mean that we should swallow uncritically all that he teaches.
We need to test the claims of the teacher against scripture, which is the touchstone of our doctrinal belief. But is it not possible to make scripture say anything? Is it not possible for a person to twist its meaning and read into it their own preferences and prejudices? Yes that is entirely possible! One only has to read some of the revisionist interpretations of scripture being advanced in the homosexuality debate in the church today.
For this reason it is amore important than ever that we allow scripture to interpret scripture and allow the biblical context to give shape to its meaning.
Peter, whose aim is to show that if God punished unrighteousness in the past, he will do so in the future, provides us with three case studies, "If God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell… to be held for judgment"v4. What is his point? Oh! angels are glorious and mighty beings but all their power and dignity was of no use when they rebelled. God was unsparing in his sentence. They were cast out of his presence and have been reserved in darkness, until the great day of judgment. What then could the false teachers expect to face? Let Jesus answer in Matt. 25:41,
"Depart from me, you cursed,
into eternal fire prepared
for the devil and
The second case study on judgment is taken from the days of Noah, v 5: "If he [God]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 the false teachers did not learn the lesson from the fallen angels, they should learn it from the flood. God swept away the ungodly in judgment. This group of people thought themselves to be safe. Why? Year after year, God seemed indifferent to their godlessness! What a shock when suddenly God’s warnings were realised. They were no longer treated as a joke as these people found themselves caught up in the inevitability of judgement.
The third case study features Sodom and Gomorrah cfv 6-8. These cities were judged for their sexual immorality - a practice that the false teachers were promoting. Peter’s points to God’s
consistency in judgement - his morality is not a fluid
thing, it is not influenced by public opinion or
Attitudes of society may change, attitudes of
some teachers within the church may change
but God does not change! No wonder the writer
to the Hebrews warns that ‘it is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of a holy God.’ Heb.10.31
Now against this dark backcloth of certain judgment a comforting truth is seen to sparkle cf. v9 "So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial” [people like Noah and Lot].
This comment provides the climax and conclusion of the long sentence that started back in v4! It’s purpose is to encourage those living in the midst of a godlessness
that has been produced by false teaching.
Peter does not tell believers that their situation would improve or that their troubles would be temporary. Scripture doesn’t offer a false optimism. But he points believers to God’s throne - to the one who rules in the affairs of men. Yes, God permits evil but he also
God sets boundaries for it.
In the midst of this unrighteousness God rescues his own. He allows no lasting harm to come to them. How does God rescue? By removing believers from trial? No! In the interim he gives grace to endure so that they can rejoice in the midst of trial 1Pet.1v6ff. But he also saves from ultimate destruction and judgment of which both the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, are but pale shadows. This is what makes preaching such a serious matter. For God in the gospel calls men from the city of destruction and encourages an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our great Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!