Sunday, October 21, 2012

2 Peter 2:15-22

2 Peter 2:15-22
“Forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrong-doing; But he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spake with man’s voice and stayed the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved. For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; Promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; For whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse than the first. For it were better for them to not known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.”(ASV)

The false teachers that were mentioned back in the beginning of the chapter are shown in these last verses that they knew the true way of salvation, but never accepted it because they saw monetary profit in leading God’s people astray. They would be less likely to lead anyone astray if they believed and accepted the offer of salvation as the people they deceived had. 

They have followed the path of Balaam, who so desired to sell out Israel with his prophecies. The story of Balaam and the Moabite king Balak is found in Numbers 22-24. In the account, Balak seeks out Balaam, a hireling prophet to curse Israel. Balaam makes it clear on more than one occasion with Balak that he could not go beyond the word of God. Numbers 22:1-22 show Balaam’s character and where his heart truly was. The Lord instructed Balaam to go with the men of Balak only if they invited him a second time to come with them. They did not, and Balaam saddled his ass and went with them nevertheless. 

False prophets, in the manner of Balaam, come to realize that they cannot separate Christ from His people. They know they can however, separate His people from Him. And so with extravagant words devoid of any truth, they entice the flesh with what it longs after. 

Peter uses three references three things in describing false teachers: wells or springs, clouds, and mist or fog. In scripture, wells are often a picture of a source of spiritual truth. They are  Proverbs 16:22 states: “Understanding is a wellspring of life...”. Proverbs 18:4 says: “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” There are many other verses found in the Bible that pertain to wells with spiritual truth connected to it. Wells that provide no water would be deceptive towards anyone who thirsts. It is just the same spiritually as it is physically. False prophets present themselves as having refreshing words of wisdom for earnest students of God’s word. But in reality, they give no satisfaction.

They are also clouds carried by a tempest. Clouds usually indicate rain, and rain usually symbolizes blessing in scripture. But tempests, or storms are not generally symbols of blessing. In the OT it is generally associated with visitations by God upon the wicked (Psa. 11:6; Psa. 83:15; Isa. 29:6). In the NT, the word for tempest in 2 Peter 2:17– transliterated lailaps– is found only in two other places. Mark 4:37 and Luke 8:23 give the same account of the Lord calming the sea while He and His disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee when a might storm comes upon them. His disciples fearing death, wake the Lord. The Lord rebuked the wind and calmed the sea to be still, and the positive results were immediate. 

When false teachers come into your assembly or Bible study seeking to cause division and lead some astray, this passage in 2 Peter is a good one to remember about their character and intention. Another good passage with similar use of words is in Jude 12-13. Together, the passages show that false teachers only appear to bring blessing but really bring discord. Then, remember the account of Christ calming the sea in Mark or Luke’s gospel. Christ has the power to rebuke these tempests that come our way. We shall not fear when we gather together, for wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ, He will be there also. And if He is there, then we can take courage in knowing that our Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and love and of sound mind.(2 Tim. 2:1:7).

The judgment for false teachers is spelled out in the final clause of verse 17: “the mist of darkness is reserved forever.”(emphasis mine) These false prophets who have gone in the way of Balaam may ask as he did to die the death of righteousness. But it will not be granted unto them. 

Peter gives a description of what manner in which they speak that causes so many believers to be led astray. There were many heretical sects when this epistle was written, and Peter’s audience would have come in contact with a great number of teachers of these sects. There were the Cerinthians, Nicolaitans, and the Gnostics, just to name a few of the groups that produced apostate teachers. Verses 18-19 could easily be applied to those three heretical sects as well as many others. Each of those groups were known for advocating sinfulness in its followers. They were also known for having teachers who were great orators. 

The false teachers of these sects offered liberty apart from Christ, that one can claim Christ as Savior, even Lord, but continue in a life of sin. While these groups do not exist today, many popular groups today have adopted the teachings and practices. The Emergent/Emerging Church, the Charismatic movement and others advocate a lax attitude towards sin and unbelief in the name of tolerance. 

The great danger in promising liberty to sin to believers is that they suffer a loss of reward, but Peter directs the warning towards unbelievers who have not experienced salvation. If a professing believer who is not a true believer receives and accepts the teaching from a false teacher that there is liberty to sin while keeping a relationship with Christ, their end will be worse than when they first professed faith in Christ. For a true believer to be convinced that they can practice sin and have a license to do so as a result of their standing with God is sad enough. At least they are truly saved, they may lose out on rewards and a fellowship with Christ for a temporal amount of time. 

The second chapter concludes with Peter citing a part of a “true proverb”. The verse in its entirety reads from Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” This verse brings to mind the familiar story of Moses and Pharoah. Most of us probably know the account from our youth. Moses is sent by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharoah withstands Moses, thereby withstanding God. In the eighth chapter of Exodus however, we read that Pharoah appeared to have a change of heart for here in Ex. 8:8 says: “Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that He may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; And I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.” So it sounds like he repented, he was going to submit to the Lord. The verses that follow reveal that Moses and Aaron went unto the Lord and cried out to Him over the matter. The Lord did according to the word of Moses and the plague of frogs was stayed. Now here’s the kicker: “But when Pharoah saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.” (vv.15)

Pharoah, like a dog in the very true and applicable proverb quoted by Peter, returned to his folly, his vomit. This verse has often been used as a pretext to prove that it is possible to lose one’s salvation. But considering the context, nothing could be further from the truth. The very beginning of the chapter starts out with Peter warning of false teachers who deny the Lord and are currently awaiting judgment. So these are not true believers who have sinned greatly and lost their salvation; That would be impossible. The subjects here are professing believers whose true colors are finally being shown. Albert Barnes writes: “These professing believers never were saved. Whatever external reformation might have occurred, their nature remained the same; When they apostasized from their outward profession, they merely acted out their nature, and showed that in fact there had been no real change.” (4) Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2 Peter 2:10-14

2 Peter 2:10-14

“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:”

After Peter gives a word of comfort to those who practice righteousness, he turns to those who walk after the flesh. He assures his readers that they will receive payment for their unrighteous deeds. Verse nine ends with Peter saying that God knows how to reserve the unjust for judgement and many translations, the KJV for example, punctuate the end of the verse with a colon. One of the correct ways to use the colon in the English written language is between independent clauses when the second clause explains or summarizes the first. This appears to be what Peter was doing with verses 10 through 14 in relation to verse 9. 

These five verses summarize and explain who the unjust are that are that God reserves to the day of judgement. They are morally contaminated, despising the dominion that God has placed over them. This could apply to political government, and church government such as the shepherds of the local flock, but probably, it refers to the government of Christ. If one walks after the flesh as Peter says, then they would not take joy in the Lordship of Christ. They are very presumptuous, or daring, in their actions. The word for presumptuous is transliterated as tolmetes, and is very similar in meaning to the Greek word which is transliterated as tolmao. Tolmao appears in a passage I went over in Jude 1:9. Tolmao appears in that verse as the word ‘durst’ where we read: “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said the Lord rebuke thee.”(emphasis mine) Michael was not presumptuous, he was not daring as some brothers and sisters in Christ count these things as qualities to strive towards. They are self-willed, in Greek, the base of the word is hedone, which is where we get the word ‘hedonism’. 

The dignities that these false teachers speak evil of probably refers to the majesty of Christ’s dignity. The way the word that is translated for ‘dignities’ occurs over 170 times in the new testament, 147 times as the word ‘glory’. Of course, if anyone despises the dignity and glory of Christ, then they would surely despise the varied types of authority placed in our lives be it in the home, or in the workplace, or in the assembly, or in the Oval Office. False teachers have a way hating authority of any kind. Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas for example, has spoken out vehemently against the U.S. government– to the point of preaching no gospel at all. This author freely admits that the U.S. government is not perfect; like all governments founded and run by fallen men, ours is imperfect and even corrupt. But as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We should not despise or protest against those who have authority over us but pray for our leaders. Instead of protesting at funerals of soldiers fallen in the line of duty, we should see this as an opportunity to pray for the families and preach the gospel. 

The eleventh verse refers to something that I spoke of in a recent paragraph: the angels who are not so presumptuous as to bring accusation against them before the Lord. This verse also points out that angels are greater in power and might, and yet, they bring no accusation against false teachers when most people would. 

Their demise speaks of them as wild animals, born for corruption and to perish. Their lifestyle shall be for them a means to a destructive end. God is no man’s debtor as the thirteenth verse points out. They who walk after uncleanness shall surely be rewarded for their acts. Their acts are known to all as they consider it a delight to indulge in their lusts in broad daylight. When an assembly has one of these kinds of professing believers in their midst, it puts a blemish on the whole flock. This shows a powerful example of what happens when discipline is neglected. Many elders have said that exercising discipline on a member of an assembly is the hardest part of their work as under-shepherds.

The apostate can not look on something or someone without lusting after it. Like the people that lived in Noah’s day, they can never stop sinning. They are quite good at enticing unstable souls. It is important for a believer then, to be stable, or steadfast, so they are not allured into sinful living. What should a believer be stable in? They should be stable in the word of God. Many believers are stable in performing good works and evangelism to the extent that they have no time for time in the word. It is not wrong for christians to be steadfast in evangelistic efforts and doing good. Our walk before the Lord if it is in love, is a sweet smelling savour to Christ. But if we are not studying the word, our feet are not on stable land. We can get enticed to engage in lascivious, questionable living.