Studies in 2 Peter. Presentation 05. The Corruption Of Truth Chapter 2v12-22. Presentation 05. Introduction. “How do we know who we can trust?” This is a question that has exercised Christians for hundreds of years as they have been confronted with “new” teaching.
“How do we know who we can trust?” This is a question that has exercised Christians for hundreds of years as they have
been confronted with “new” teaching.
We have already seen that Peter has provided a
kind of identikit picture to help us recognise false
teachers whose influence can undermine the
assurance of God’s people.
Or, to change the metaphor, we have been
given a litmus test that will help us to
distinguish between authentic and spurious
spirituality. Peter now further develops this
test so intent is he on preventing God’s
people from being led astray.
In v10b-13a we learn of the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the false teacher. “Bold and arrogant these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings”. The “celestial beings” may be the fallen angels of v 4. In which case, Peter is saying something as follows,
“the false teachers are so brazen and self-assured that they revile the evil spirits as though they were safe from any supernatural evil influence at all. In contrast, the holy angels who are far greater in strength and power than the fallen members of their species would not dream of speaking accusingly of them. Instead they humble themselves and leave the issue of judgment to God”.
It would appear that what is in the writer’s mind is that the authority of God himself is behind the holy angels’ respect for inferior or fallen angels. But, where there is no recognition of God’s authority, then men are bold and arrogant and give no second
thought to speaking evil of spiritual realities.
An obvious practical application of this
principle can be made in our human
relationships. Authentic spirituality is
not marked by accusing and judging
other professing Christians in God’s
presence, quite the reverse!
Peter then in v12 compares false teachers to animals and for two reasons. First, they are completely ignorant of what they are talking about. They revile spiritual realities in the way that a wolf might howl at the moon. Animals live by instinct, there’s no moral dimension to their behaviour - a lion doesn’t develop a guilty conscience after tearing an antelope apart!
But secondly, these teachers will be
destroyed like the animals - the seeds
of destruction lie within their nature.
To resist God and oppose him is always
the beginning of self-destruction.
They will come to an end in judgment
and then all their howling will be silenced.
How we need to guard against spiritual pride!
Peter’s second point is that we live in a moral universe v13…. Unashamed indulgence reaps its own harvest, ‘they will be paid back...’. These kind of men tend to have a short term view of pleasure, they have no moral qualms concerning their immoral behaviour and give little thought of consequences. They are described as ‘blots and blemishes’. Now a blot or blemish is something that devalues the value of the whole.
The Christian love feast which preceded the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the early church, would appear to have been brought into disrepute. A similar situation had developed in
Corinth cf. 1Cor11.20-22. This blemish devalued
the Lord’s supper!
Some years ago a church leader in Scotland
gained notoriety for leading many of God’s
people astray. So self-assured was he of his
power over his flock that he arrived at
worship in a state of drunkenness and
used vile and filthy language.
Such people commit openly and
brazenly in daylight hours, the sins
that others perform furtively in the dark.
Peter goes on, they ‘have eyes full of adultery’. This term includes immorality but its’ meaning is far broader and describes someone who seduces the allegiance of God’s people from God to themselves. They are engaged in a kind of tug of war with God for the allegiance of the hearts of those who have placed themselves under their care.
If dying to self is a characteristic of a genuine Christianity
then selfish self-centredness lies at the heart of those
who reject God’s authority.
It is this preoccupation with ‘self’ even
in the context of supposedly serving
God that causes Peter to cite the
example of Balaam.
After the Exodus when the Israelites approached the land of Moab, Balak, the king, unsure of their intent sent for Balaam the prophet and offered him money, Num. 22:7, to come and curse the Israelites. ‘Greed’ for gain consumed this prophet’s thinking.
It blinded him to spiritual realities, so much so,
that he failed to see an angel blocking his path
as journeyed to perform his vile deed. The irony
of the situation was that his donkey saw the
spiritual reality that he was blind to.
It would appear that the false teachers were not
only luring young converts into sexual promiscuity,
but charging them for their own special teaching!
If you pay for something, you take it more
Their target audience were, "unsteady souls,” v14 “new converts,” v18. People who were unstable in their grasp of truth. Often false teachers have particular target audiences in mind, people of a particular background or with particular needs whom they can bend to their will.
We need to take seriously the need to establish our own doctrinal stability, that of our children and of those who are new converts. We need to be increasingly committed to helping each other to send down roots that will strike into the bedrock of Christian truth
Peter’s third section in v17 deals with the emptiness
of false teaching. The teachers are described as
"springs without water and mists driven by a storm”.
Imagine yourself lost in a desert, your tongue is
parched and then you see an oasis. You run
towards it only to discover that it is dry as a
bone. False teachers appear to offer thrills,
insight and freedom, but in reality they
are empty and barren.
These teachers promise spiritual blessing
but are incapable of delivering what
False teachers are also ‘like mists’. Now what effect does a mist have? It obscures what is there. Mountain climbers, aircraft pilots, car drivers fear the onset of mist and with good cause! False teachers have the effect of obscuring what is true!.
The blackness reserved for them is a fitting punishment for they have attempted to obscure the light of God’s truth. We need to be able to distinguish between waterless springs and springs of living water! The one bubbles up unto eternal life. The other cruelly fails to satisfy thirst for all eternity, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. We must become a deeply discerning people.
Finally, these false teachers enticed new and unstable converts by promising them ‘freedom’. It’s possible to get an idea how they argued from 1 Pet. 2v16, "Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as slaves of God." The call to freedom lies at the heart of N.T. faith. But it’s not a call to give free reign to ones’ passions.
Yet these teachers offered freedom from the restraint of law.
“You are now able to sin but in a Christian context.
The gospel has brought you into a realm
of grace, sin with gusto then access
the grace of God’s forgiveness”.
They offered a licence to sin!
The adherents of this view were not free! They were ‘slaves of corruption’ v19. In contrast the gospel call to freedom teaches that:
1. Christ had died to free us from the guilt and power of sin
We are free from the law in the sense that we need no longer
strive to keep it in our own human effort.
We are given new hearts by the Holy Spirit so that freely we can
delight in holiness.
Paul knew that his teaching on Christian freedom was open to abuse. CfGal. 5:13, “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.”
Now these false teachers were doing precisely that!
They used their freedom as an opportunity to indulge
their love for money, praise and sexual pleasure.
They may have cited Gal.5v1, “For freedom
Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!”
Implying, “Away with the enslaving rules that
govern the life of the body - have a sin binge!
You are not under law; you are under grace!”
Peter also sounds the alarm and warns that if you forsake the way of righteousness and by your actions deny the Master who bought you, then you are not saved and your condition is worse than it was before you knew the way.
Some people appear to make a start in the Christian life and outwardly appear to have escaped from the defilements of the world.
Remember Jesus’ parable of the sower; the cares, riches and pleasures of life can choke the young plant so that it withers, bears no fruit and dies. Luke 8:14.
Peter says in v20ff the more you know of Christ and his gospel then the more severe will be your judgment if you reject him. “It would have been better never to have known the way”. Jesus makes the same point in Matt 11.21ff, "Woe to you Chorazin and Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago …it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you"
A doctor gives you a 10 day course of antibiotics
and says, “Don't stop taking them after five
days just because your sore throat clears up.
If you do, it may flare up all the worse.”
So too, in the Christian life, if you stop
trusting Christ and disobey his prescription
for your redemption, your latter state
will be worse than the former.
Does Peter teach that God's elect can lose their salvation? No but he teaches that church members, who make an outward profession of faith, can turn away from Christ and be lost. Cf. v22 characteristically dogs return to their vomit; and after cleaning up a pig on the outside, it remains a pig and 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! Jesus said, "He who endures to the end will be saved" Mt. 10v22.
There is no salvation apart from persevering
faith. And persevering faith reveals itself in
righteous living. Therefore, to abandon
the way of righteousness is to exclude
oneself from salvation.
This epistle was written to help us confirm our election. It warns us not to deny the Master who bought us, and by strengthening us to resist the temptations of spiritual pride, self-sufficiency, love of money and the summons to unbridled sexual license.
It may not be the kind of chapter that we enjoy reading. But then not all medicine tastes good. God, the great physician, knows our need! If this book helps increase our determination to secure a full assurance of hope to the end, it will have surely achieved its God given purpose.