II Peter 2:10 – 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,
Here in chapter 2, Peter is warning true believers against false teachers.
As we noted in our last post, it is likely that Peter is referring to a heretical sect known as the Nicolaitans:
- These people claimed to be Christians, but they abused the laws of grace, even to the point of denying that Jesus was the Messiah who died on the cross.
- They also claimed to have ‘secret’ spiritual wisdom which they received through mystic revelation. This was supposedly given to them, and no one else. Their actions caused divisions within the church body.
- They introduced false doctrines into the church. This was not done blatantly; instead they introduced their own opinions here and there until they succeeded in twisting the truth.
- Peter describes them as greedy. They gave smooth convincing sermons designed to take money from honest believers who wanted to support the gospel.
- Peter describes them as licentious. Their behavior was unrestrained by law or morality and characterized by abuse of freedom. Their sin had no boundaries and basically taught that ‘anything goes’. (I can see where that would be a popular doctrine!)
In short, they intentionally perverted religious truth in order to open doors of licentiousness and sin for themselves and anyone they could convince to join them. Sadly, there are still false teachers in the world today!
Our last post ended with Peter assuring us that God has punishment in store for these wicked people.
Peter now builds upon that topic. Not only does God punish the wicked in general, he especially punishes heretics and seducers, who add the ‘lust of defiling passion’ to their corrupt doctrines and false teachings. Not only are they teaching evil, they are living it for all the world to see, while still identifying themselves Christians.
They live for the indulgence of their carnal appetites, following the desires and inclinations of their own minds. Since their minds are filled with thoughts of sin and worldly pleasure, they will relentlessly pursue those things without restraint.
This is the opposite of the true believer, who renews his mind in righteousness (Romans 12:2) and keeps a diligent guard on the thoughts that enter his mind.
2 Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
You are the gate keeper of your own mind – God allows each one of us to choose what we will allow our minds to dwell on. As you are deciding what to think about, keep this in mind – the seeds you plant in your mind will come to fruition in your actions (James 1:13-15). So be careful what you think about!
As if that were not enough, false teachers also hate authority. In our study of I Peter chapter 2, Peter admonished believers to submit to those that God has placed in authority over us, such as kings, magistrates, governors, etc. God has placed them there for our good – to punish evil and maintain order. As we respect and obey them, it brings glory to God and removes any reason that the heathen have for slandering Christianity.
However, these vain false teachers do not respect authority of any kind. Because they desire unbridled freedom of all kinds, they rebel against authority in the government, the church, the family and ultimately against God himself. Their ultimate goal is anarchy.
I can’t help but compare this passage of scripture to some of the events taking place in our nation today. We seem to have areas where people have thrown off the restraints of government, society and police, resulting in pockets of anarchy. One thing we can do is to pray, asking God to send revival into these areas. If these rebellious people will accept Christ as Lord, he will change their hearts and minds.
II Peter 2:11 – whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.
This verse is actually the second half of the thought expressed in verse 10, which describes the false teachers as people who rebel against all authority, especially that of the civil government. In their bold and scornful rebellion, they curse, imprecate and judge the government officials in authority over them.
Peter now contrasts their actions with those of the angels:
There is evidence in scripture to show that angels do not mock, blaspheme, reproach, judge or otherwise rail against others, even when they are zealously engaged in the work of God.
An example of this is referenced in Jude 9-10 as well as in Jewish tradition, where the archangel Michael contended with Satan for the body of Moses. During their encounter, the only words spoken by the angel were simple, truthful and straightforward – ‘The Lord rebuke you’. There was no use of harsh or violent language. The angels did not presume to judge or condemn their adversaries.
Here is the point Peter is making: Angels are higher in knowledge, dignity and power than human beings. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for angels to speak judgmentally against the magistrates/rulers of this world than it would be for men to do so. Yet, angels don’t do that. They always show respect and dignity toward those God has placed in positions of civil authority. Angels recognize that God has sanctioned that authority and they, as servants of God, respect it.
But these false teachers are senseless brutes – they speak blasphemy and judgment against those who have their authority from God. We might say they rush in where angels fear to tread, and they rail against things they don’t understand (the purposes of God in granting authority to certain people).
Scripture does not give us a full account of what was said by these foolish men. We only know that they spoke presumptuously and wickedly against authority. Our assumption is that the people of Peter’s day knew the specifics of the situation. We can also assume that Holy Spirit wanted to call our attention to the bigger picture here – that false teachers exhibit a lack of respect for authority, always leaning towards anarchy.
II Peter 2:12-13a – 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.
Let’s stop and talk about wild boars for a minute. Except for older males, wild boars travel in groups. They are swift, nocturnal, unpredictable and aggressive. They are omnivorous (they’ll eat anything – plants, meat, garbage, etc). The males average around 200 pounds, although many larger animals have been documented.
These animals are extremely destructive. They love to root, trample and wallow. In the process of doing so, they destroy crops, forests and property. They prey on or compete with native species such as rodents, deer, birds, snakes, frogs and lizards.
They also spread disease to both animals and humans. There are more than 24 diseases that people can get form wild boars including hepatitis E and tuberculosis.
Now, suppose that a large wild boar was loose in your neighborhood. What would that be like? Remember, that animal is wild and aggressive. You can’t tame it. You can’t train it. You can’t reason with it. It’s unpredictable and aggressive. It’s only goal in life is to fulfill its desires – eat, destroy and reproduce.
It will attack and destroy wildlife and pets. It will ruin your lawn/garden, your landscaping, your fruit trees and any crops the farmers are growing. Not only would it be dangerous because it is aggressive, it carries disease. If an animal like that was wreaking havoc in your town, it wouldn’t be long before animal control was called in to capture and kill it.
Peter is saying that licentious false teachers/prophets are like wild boar. They ignore their God given ability to restrain their behavior and desires. They want to be wild, throwing off all restraint or authority in pursuit of their base fleshly desires (money, sex, power, drunkenness, entertainment, etc). They don’t care who they hurt or destroy in the process. They infect unsuspecting believers with their diseased doctrine and practices. In the end, they will be destroyed – their behavior will eventually lead to both moral and spiritual death.
The ironic thing is this – these people are all about casting off authority because they don’t want to be restrained or bound by law and society. But by rebelling against the authority sanctioned by God, they place themselves under the bondage of their own evil passions. So either way, they wind up being ‘captured’ – they will serve a master of some kind.
Those who serve a master earn wages.
We are all familiar with ‘wages’ – money earned by performing work. In a sense, all people are earning eternal wages. Those who serve God are laying up treasures in heaven, while those who serve Satan (or themselves) are laying up torment/punishment in hell. Recompense may or may not come in this life, but it is guaranteed in the next. The justice of God guarantees it.
II Peter 2:13b –They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.
Most sinners wait for the cover of secrecy or night to indulge in sinful pleasures. But these false teachers are so bad, they have cast off even that light fetter. They defy all decency by openly and shamefully practicing wickedness in a place and manner that all can see.
These vile sinners are like blots or blemishes. Picture it this way: You are wearing a brand new, pure white, silk shirt to a party. Turns out, the host of the party is serving BBQ wings. You pick up a really saucy wing and – oops – your shirt isn’t white anymore! What a shame; the spot ruins the shirt.
In the same way, the actions and beliefs of false teachers are a scandal and a disgrace to the true spiritual church of Christ, which should be (and one day will be) without spot or wrinkle.
Furthermore, our translation says they revel in their deceptions, while the King James Version says they ‘sport themselves with their own deceivings’. Not surprisingly, the Greek word means to live delicately or luxuriously. In other words, they take advantage of their views/doctrines to live in rebellion and luxury. They indulge in their most corrupt passions under the guise of Christianity. In fact, they even look forward to the Christian feasts as an occasion to indulge (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).
What could be worse? They clearly blaspheme God and slander salvation by their words and deeds.
II Peter 2:14 – They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!
‘Eyes’ is a figurative expression often used in scripture. In this case, it refers to the mind/disposition of man. For example:
- Bountiful eye refers to a person of kindly disposition (Proverbs 22:9).
- Haughty or lofty eyes refer to a spirit of pride (Psalms 131:1).
- Lowly eyes refers to a person who is humble (Luke 18:13).
- Sharpening of the eyes refers to anger (Job 16:9).
In this case, eyes full of adultery refers to idolatrous inclinations. Peter tells us their desires are insatiable. Your translation may say ‘cannot cease from sin’. This does not mean that they do not have the natural mental ability to stop sinning. Neither does it mean that they are physically incapable of ceasing to sin. Rather, it means that they are so corrupt that they will certainly always sin.
And they don’t like to sin alone. They try to involve as many people as possible in their false doctrines which promise carnal pleasures and liberties. Christians who are not deeply rooted in their commitment to Christ are in danger of being beguiled (baited or entrapped) by these deceivers.
Peter refers to these wicked people as accursed children. This either means they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved to be cursed.
I Peter 2:15-16 – 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.
The right way refers to the narrow path of righteousness that Christians tread in this life (Matthew 7:13-14). This path leads to peace, blessing and eternal life. False teachers and prophets have left the narrow path and proceeded to follow Balaam down the wide road. This road leads to sin, torment and eternal death.
Remember Balaam son of Beor (or Bozor)? He is most famous for having a conversation with his own donkey, but there is a whole lot more to his story. You can read the whole account of Balaam in Numbers 22-25.
Without explaining the entire story of Balaam (we don’t have time), let’s look at how he compares to the false teachers/prophets that Peter is warning his flock about.
One – Balaam professed to be a religious leader or servant of God, but that is very questionable. He was planning to do great harm to the nation of Israel by accepting a lot of money to curse them. So too, false teachers were professing to be Christians, but causing great harm in the church.
Two – Balaam was greedy and covetous. He knew full well that God did not want him to go with the Moabites to curse Israel, but he went anyway because he wanted the honor and fortune that King Balak was going to give him. (Balaam’s tendency to avarice is clearly evident throughout the entire narrative. You will see it if you go back and read the account in Numbers). He preferred rewards of this life over the blessing of God. The false teachers of Peter’s day were also willing to disobey God in order to receive earthly rewards.
Three – Inciting others to licentiousness. The culmination of Balaam’s story is this: Although he desperately wanted to curse Israel so he could get paid, God would literally not allow him to do it. (In fact, he verbally blesses them instead.) So he does the next best thing –he reveals to the King of Moab how to get Israel to curse itself. And – you guessed it- he did it through licentiousness.
Balaam instructed the Moabites to throw a great feast and invite Israel. There was plenty of alcohol, food and false idols. The beautiful young women of Moab came to the feast ready to party and soon the whole affair turned into a great orgy in which the false gods of Moab were worshipped by the Israelites. As a result of their actions, God severely punished them.
This brings up an interesting question: Have we avoided the snares of false teachers only to curse ourselves? Are we doing things contrary to the word of God? Are these things blocking the Lord’s blessing from our lives?
For instance, are you harboring unforgiveness towards someone? Are you with holding tithe and offerings from the Lord? Has Holy Spirit clearly spoken to you to do something for him, but you refuse like an obstinate child? All of these things can block God’s blessings from you.
II Peter 2:17 – These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.
Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of a desert. You are out of water. It is extremely hot. There is no relief from the relentless sun. You are sweaty and exhausted. Your mouth is like sandpaper and your lips taste like salt. As time passes by, you are getting closer and closer to death.
But suddenly, you crest a sand dune and way off in the distance you see a well! Relief and joy flood your spirit because that well promises relief and life to you. You struggle to get through that last mile and reach the well.
Now suppose you uncap the well, only to find that it is dry. Imagine what that would feel like. You would despair and give up hope. You are closer to death than you have ever been because the well did not deliver what it promised – water.
In the same way, sinners are seeking relief from sin. They are in a desert of death and despair. They are looking for life, and they turn to the church to find it. But what if they are not met with a true Christian teacher or pastor? A false teacher is like that dry desert well – they promise relief from spiritual death, but they can’t deliver (Jude 12-13). Those seeking the refreshing truth of the gospel are disappointed. Their spiritual journey has just gotten more difficult, instead of easier.
Here is Peter’s point: False teachers offer doctrines that seem wonderful. According to them, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can be a Christian but live as sinful a life as you like. But that is not true. Their vain, empty promises are like wells without water or rain clouds without rain.
Peter also assures his readers once again that God is going to punish these wicked people. Utter darkness denotes a place of future punishment (Matthew 8:12) which God has prepared for those who choose this path.
So here’s the really important question: If a sinner came to you as a well of spiritual life, would you be able to give them the water of salvation?
John 7:38 – He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.
In the gospel of John chapter 4, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about the living waters of salvation. In John chapter 7, Jesus says that if we are believers, the precious Holy Spirit lives within us and is like a mighty river of water that brings healing and salvation to those who need it.
If you are a Christian, you have this water. What you need to do is learn how to use your bucket to draw out that water and present it to others by sharing the gospel message.
II Peter 2:18-19 – 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.
‘Those who are barely escaping from error’ refers to new Christians. Having turned to Christ, they have just recently escaped from sin and death. This puts them in a very dangerous place – they have probably only recently broken off many of their old habits and there may be a strong desire to relapse into old ways.
At this point, if they receive sound doctrine to help them grow in grace, they will become rooted and grounded in Christ and go on to bring forth a spiritual harvest for the kingdom of heaven.
But if they come across a false teacher speaking words of folly and boasting, they could be in real trouble. These teachers deliberately present their erroneous doctrines with fancy words in a pompous manner, hoping to allure or ensnare unsuspecting believers into their false beliefs. Specifically, they promise Christianity with unlimited indulgence in carnal appetites and unrestrained freedom/liberty.
Let’s talk about freedom for a moment. Sin makes you a slave to darkness and evil. You have no way of breaking out of the cycle of servitude to it. Every person under the bondage of sin will reap the same reward – death.
However, true Christianity promises and delivers freedom from sin. Hallelujah! By breaking the yoke of darkness from your life, it gives you the freedom to choose Christ; you can choose to live a holy life as a son or daughter of God. You can choose to become a steward in the kingdom of heaven, reaping rewards of life. This is true freedom:
John 8:35-36 – The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The freedom of the false teachers is different. They define freedom as the absence of needless restraint and/or the strict/narrow limits of religion. But this is not freedom – it is licentiousness which in reality, is slavery.
Here’s why: Whatever a person submits to (greed, lust, desire for power, etc) is truly his master – he is enslaved to it. So in casting off restraints, they place themselves back under the chains of their passions and desires. Thus, the promise of freedom from false teachers results in bondage again to sin; all sin results in servitude and slavery.
Here is some good news: Christians can prevent falling prey to their tactics by seriously attending to their own personal holiness and working to add Christian graces to their lives.
II Peter 2:20 – 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.
The unstable souls (verse 14) who come under the destructive influence of false doctrines will find themselves in a worse position than before they were saved.
By coming to Christ, they gained additional wisdom and knowledge of God that sinners do not have; they have first hand experience of the true saving grace of Christ.
Knowledge always carries the burden of responsibility. Each person is responsible for the level of knowledge of God that they have. By again becoming entangled in the things of the world, they will now be judged on an increased level of knowledge, which will result in a more severe judgment that what the ignorant will receive (Luke 12:47).
II Peter 2:21 – 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.
When the apostle uses the word ‘better’ here, he is making a comparison.
On the one hand, we have sinners who have always been heathens, being in ignorance of the gospel message, and being ignorant of the law of sin.
But on the other hand we have sinners who were once heathens, but then came to a knowledge of the grace of Christ Jesus. They knew what it was like to have the freedom to choose Christ. They heard the gospel message, understood sin, and knew they were saved by grace.
To have a knowledge of the truth and then turn away from it is considered the greater evil. Those who were always ignorant of the truth have less culpability than those who knew the truth and yet sinned against it.
II Peter 2:22 – 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.”
Here Peter calls upon the wisdom found in Proverbs (26:11) and Jewish tradition.
This is a proverb we recognize and easily understand. Pigs don’t change their natures. They have a desire to wallow in the mud. Even if they clean themselves, it is only a temporary measure. They will soon return to wallowing in the mud because their nature has not changed.
So far, so good. This makes perfect sense in the case of the pig. But when we seek to apply this proverb to the spiritual realm, we get major difference of opinion amongst scholars.
The debate centers around this:
Did the person in question ever really have a true change of heart/conversion experience?
Those who believe the person really DID have a change of heart/conversion (became a Christian) must, by default, believe that people can fall away from the faith. They can ‘back slide’ or lose their salvation if they willfully choose the ways of sin.
Those who believe the person DID NOT really have a true change of heart/conversion must, by default, believe that the person was never saved (became a Christian) to begin with. Therefore, like the pig, they will return to sin. The logical conclusion to this belief is that those who do truly accept Christ will never ‘back slide’. Therefore, you can never lose your salvation, once you truly accept it.
This issue is a divisive one, which scholars in our generation continue to hotly debate. You can decide for yourself which opinion you think is correct.
But the real bottom line is this: No church is completely pure. No church is without people and thus no church is without sin or faulty doctrine of some kind. It is the duty of each individual Christian to guard against false beliefs that lead to unrestrained behavior (licentiousness). As we work towards personal holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), and purposefully add Christian graces to our lives, we can rest assured that Holy Spirit will keep us safe from falling away from grace. There is no need to fear.
But woe to those who lead others astray for their own gratification!
Let me offer you some encouragement:
As we mentioned earlier, God gives each one of us the ability to control our minds. You can’t stop random thoughts of sin from popping into your mind. But you can control what you allow to stay there!
What should the minds of holy people be dwelling on? The apostle Paul gives us the answer here:
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I encourage you to dwell on these things, because if you do, you will avoid a lot of sin and temptation!
Let me offer you some relief and strength:
As we mentioned earlier, all Christians have the ‘living water’ of God in our lives. In other words, you have the same gospel message that Billy Graham, Charles Finney and others had. You have access to the same Holy Spirit power they had.
All you need to do is get comfortable sharing that water with thirsty souls. It’s not a matter of having a PhD in divinity. It’s not a matter of getting a bullhorn and standing on the corner condemning random people to hell. It doesn’t have to include every book of the bible and take an entire day. It does not have to be confrontational.
It’s simply a matter of being ready to share what God has done for you with people who are hurting. Is one of your coworkers going through an illness or a marriage problem? Offer them support and prayer. Just a little kindness can open the door for you to share what a difference Christ has made in your life.
Sharing the gospel can be a gentle, peaceful, well received experience. You don’t have to fear it! Just look for ways to mention Jesus in your daily conversations. You might be surprised how easy it is to share your faith!