The False Prophets and Teachers of 2nd Peter 2. Part 2.
In Part 1 of this study (http://theacrylicpulpit.com/node/22) we looked at the truth that the false prophets, teachers, and those who follow them are saved people. We saw that Peter was not addressing unsaved prophets and teachers and followers. They are the believers on 2nd Peter 1:1-4 who do not add to their faith the list that starts with virtue and ends with charity in 2nd Peter 1:5-8. (It is recommended that you read Part 1 before you read the rest of this.)
This study is going to look at the description of them and of their actions as found in 2nd Peter 2. Every believer should take a look at these and assess where they stand and live in regards to what Peter says. Peter over and over again in this book says remember in one way or another. He finishes with “Seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
David says it this way in Psalms 139:23, 24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
2nd Peter 2:1 starts by saying that they divide the church (that is the definition of heresy) by living in such a way, and teaching in such a way that says they deny the Lord that bought them. Peter is not concerned with whether they are saved or not. He is looking at what they do.
- False prophets focus on experience and results, rather than the sure foundation of the revealed word of God. See Chapter 1:16-21
- They make everything about service (what you do), rather than building relationships.
- It is always more about the rules than meeting the needs. That is, they do not understand the purpose of the law (which was to teach and bring to Christ; that is to meet the needs of people.). It is more about what you can’t do, how you should do “it” rather than it is about “doing it” in every opportunity. (to love)
- It is more about accomplishments than it is about waiting for God.
I see so much of this in myself. The more I see it in myself, the harder it is not to see it and judge it (wrongfully) in others.
2nd Peter 2:2. Their ways are “pernicious”. Though many make this about sex, it is not about sex. It is about destruction of “the faith.” It shows up in church splits, in brothers in
Christ who won’t talk to each other and make no effort ever to reconcile. It shows up in the “truth police” on blogs and discussions of blogs. It is the removal of grace in Christian relationships.
It is pernicious to walk in the flesh; carnally as Paul puts it in 1st Corinthians 3. This is why the Corinthian church had divisions (heresies) among them. Division always comes from believers walking in the flesh. Proverbs 13:10 says “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” This corresponds with James 3:10 through 4:11. It is heartbreaking to see how many Christians, teachers, preachers exempt themselves from this applying to themselves by saying “I am right, therefore the contention is not from pride and it is not my fault.” That, in itself, is excessively proud.
2nd Peter 2:3 says that they are covetous. They want more of anything/or everything. They inflate the number of converts, they want more money, they want more…
They speak with “feigned words” according to verse 3. “Feigned” means “molded” or “shaped”. Maybe the best way to understand this is to look at Matthew 13:11. “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.”
The idea is to prepare and plan your speech to manipulate or control the outcome. The lack of trusting God with the outcome shows up in manipulative speech. Words to impress, to control, and even to confuse.
Lot is used as an illustration of their covetous living; a life that is blind as to the living out of the faith. 2nd Peter 2:7 says that he was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (verse 8) (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in both seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)”.
This is very revealing.
1. He is a saved man. “Righteous man” and “righteous soul” makes that very plain.
2. He had a vision problem. He was looking covetously at the world and was filling his ears with the world’s thoughts. Bank accounts, retirement, security, success and acceptance by the world, the praise of man.
3. Since he was saved, none of this could ever satisfy him where it counts. He “vexed” his soul.
4. He was vexed with the “filthy conversation” of the wicked. He put himself in a place of compromise. Where he was, in the midst of the world as part of it, put him in the place of the impossible decision of offering his daughters to the men of the city instead of the angels. AND he was vexed with his wives’ inability to let go of the world. AND he was vexed with not seeing hope; so that he ended up drunk in a cave having babies by his daughters. He was very VEXED.
There are many “vexed” Christians in the church today and they blame it on others. They are truly blind in the sense of 2nd Peter 1:9.
Verse 10 says that they walk after the flesh. The pharisees, for all their right religion walked after the flesh. They focused on earthly things and earthly values concerning themselves and the temple; and it was God’s temple. This fed their blindness because it was concern for the temple and in some way or another concern for God’s people.
Today, in the church, it is caring more for the property and building than the people who might damage the property. It is a constant looking at the size of attendance, the amount of the offering, the perfection of the music, the quality of the preaching, and the appearance of things; such as how you dress, whether you go to the theater, roller skating… This is often justified by the twisting of 1 Thess. 5:22 which says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Evil is to live a life that demonstrates a lack of trust in God and a lack of compassion and love for the vilest sinners.
“They walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness”. The context says that these are saved people. In fact, it is Lot who is “walking after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.” The Pharisees’ also walked “after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.” It is sad that so many commentaries take this to homosexuality (thus not having to look in the mirror of the word of God and see their own sin.)
The word, “uncleanness” means “to sully” or “to make dirty”. It is any action that dishonors Christ in any way. In the story of the Good Samaritan, both the Priest and the Levite walked after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. So, do many coldhearted believers today.
“They despise government”. This is seen in those on all sides of the political spectrum in the church. Libertarians want to throw government out. Liberals and Conservatives want to control government for the power to control others. Government refers to all authority; it includes parents, bosses, teachers, law enforcement, politicians, and church leaders.
Churches are full of those who despise any authority that is not perfect (other than their imperfect authority). Of all the sins that Peter is saying believers are capable of this one seems to be the most prevalent today.
In the story of the centurion’s servant that was sick in Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion reveals a proper understanding of government. What he says is so profound that Jesus says, (verse 10) “I have not found so great faith, no. not in Israel.”
The centurion says, “I am a man under authority, (it was not a very righteous one, it was imperfect) having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth…” When a man trust God it shows up in his behavior toward authority. There is no exception to this.
Daniel (in the Old Testament) had so much faith in God that he not only honored the wicked pagan kings he was under, he served them, and he loved them. Where is that kind of faith today?
Verse 10 goes on to say that they are “presumptuous” and it shows up in how they speak concerning “dignities”. “Dignities” here refers back to “governments”. In Jude 8-10 it refers to the devil himself. 2nd Peter 2:10 “speak evil of dignities”. And it is said the same way in Jude 8, “speak evil of dignities”.
The word, “uncleanness” in 2nd Peter 2:10 is the same basic word in the Greek as the word “defile” in Jude 8. That fleshly walk that is unclean and defiled is most evidenced by the way a person responds to authority. THAT IS THE CONTEXT OF BOTH PETER AND JUDE.
Even Michael, the archangel, was careful not to defile himself in how he spoke to the devil in Jude. 2nd Peter 2:11 says that the “angels, which are greater in power and might (than believers) bring not a railing accusation against them (the governments and dignities) before the Lord.” The behavior of many believers in the church today is a damnable heresy and denies the Lord that bought them. (see 2nd Peter 2:1) “To rail” on someone is to condemn them. Paul makes it plain in 1st Corinthians 5:12, 13 that it is not for believers to condemn the lost world. John 3:17 plainly states that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. In other words, the behavior of many believers in the church is actually contrary to the gospel itself.
Jude 10 says that they speak evil of things they do not know (understand) spiritually. They only “know” them “naturally, as brute beasts.” Peter says they “speak evil of things they understand not.”
The sad part is, both Jude and Peter say that they will perish in their own corruption. These carnal believers will swear that they are being persecuted for their faith; where the truth is, “They are reaping what they sow.” They are living as “natural brute beasts”. Within 5 years of writing this, for many, this literally took place in the destruction of Jerusalem.
What these “brute beasts” do not understand is that every government is established by God, used by God to serve His purposes, and that God uses them to balance the world; to control its pride. Pride, the love for this world, and the corruption of sin (old nature, or carnal nature) keeps all of us from understanding very much.
Verse 13. They are as the “that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.” When they should be living a life of temperate, gentle faith, a life of love and compassion and self-denial, they instead are rioting when they have no reason to do so. They are of the day and should be people of light. Instead they act like they are blind. Rioting means to break up that which is not theirs to break. It is a total ignoring of Matthew 18:7 that says,” woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!”
They are not afraid to offend, to hurt someone. In fact, they take “pleasure” in their offensive behavior. The more harshly they can rebuke or shame someone the more they delight in it. This shows up a lot on the internet.
Peter says they are “sporting themselves with their own deceivings.” And they “feast with the church”. They form church fellowships and denominations over the blind behaviors they embrace.
Verse 14 is brutal. It says that they have “eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children.”
In the Bible, when God says his people are full of adultery, it is not a reference to sexual sin. It is a reference to being unfaithful to him. God’s people are often unfaithful to him (actually to who He is) in their behavior.
When it says that “they cannot cease from sin” it is talking about their unfaithfulness to the character of God and the gospel purpose of saving the lost, rather than condemning the lost. It is almost impossible to get these divisive believers to even listen concerning this.
They are always practicing covetousness. They will fight for things, security, comfort, and success in this world. They curse themselves. Balaam is the illustration of this stubborn, covetous behavior.
Balaam is Peters’ illustration of a false teacher (who is a saved believer). Verse 15 says that covetous, adulterous believers have “forsaken the right way, and are gone astray.” Only believers can go astray. Only believers can forsake the right way. The right way is the way of unselfish, sacrificial love.
Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Simply put, He was in the God business for what he could get out of it. It is too easy to say, “that is not me”. If you ever say, “this is not worth it”, you are close to loving the wages of unrighteousness. If you think that you should be being treated better than you are in this world, you are very close to loving the wages of unrighteousness.
The verse says that Balaam was rebuked for his iniquity. Iniquity is the state of being broken and twisted in both nature and behavior. It took a lot for him to hear this rebuke. God had to use a “a dumb ass” to get his attention. This is often the case for carnal believers and the sad part of it is this; Balaam got the message, but it did not change his heart. That is what it means in verse 14 when it says that he “cannot cease from sin.”
God calls it “madness”. The word means “insanity”. One believer, who knows the Bible well, but refused to be corrected about his “railing” on “dignities” said, “I am resolved…” not to change. That is Insanity.
Verse 17 says that they are “wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest.” They are never satisfied, so they can never satisfy the thirst of anyone else. Verse 14 implies that they are unstable souls. Satisfied souls are very stable. They are constantly changing jobs, churches, addresses, and even spouses. The woman at the well in John 4 is a perfect illustration of them. They have a very real faith. She did. They know the Bible, she did.
A right relationship with the Messiah changed everything for her. She was able to give living water to those around her. It is important to understand that even the Pharisees brought some people to God. Paul says even when Christ is preached for wrong or poor or even evil motives it is a good thing. (Philippians 1:12-18) Many of those who are carnal, divisive believers witness, and preach, and pass out tracts. They see people come to Christ. It does not change the fact that they are carnal. I know pastors who have punched out deacons, chosen basketball games at a conference over preaching and encouraged young people to join them, pastors who regularly lied about conversions, and pastors who could not get along with anyone. They were “clouds carried about with a tempest.”
Verse 17 concludes with “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.” It would be easy to take this out of context and say that they are eternally dammed to hell. That is not the context. The next phrase in verse 18 clarifies this mist of darkness.”
“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity…” They are living in a darkness that is a mist. They do not belong there and the fact that God has reserved this mist for them means that in this life they are probably never going to repent. They will die before that happens. Not every Christian gets right with God before they die. 1st Corinthians 3:15 says that some will get to heaven smelling of smoke. St Corinthians 11:30 says that some are actually put to death for not being right with God in communion. 1st Corinthians 9:27 tells us that Paul was concerned that he himself could be a castaway. Romans 9:21 says that some Christians are vessels of dishonor. 1st Timothy 1:19 says some believers make shipwreck of the faith. There is a reserved mist of darkness in this life for them. The glory has departed. “Ichabod”.
They “speak great swelling words of vanity.” They work very hard on manipulative speech. There is no humility in their speech. Swelling is the opposite of humility. Some pastors/teachers never confess their own sinfulness and weakness; either privately or publicly. Paul’s words in 1st Timothy 1:15 are foreign to their tongue. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
They use these words to “allure” those who are vulnerable. These men themselves are “servants of corruption” and they make converts that they then bend to the same serving of corruption. This what Jesus said of the Pharisees. Matthew 23:15 “compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him (bend and corrupt him) twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Please note that the proselyte is really converted here and then they make him corrupt. This is so much the pattern in churches in America.
Verse 19 says that they are overcome with what they want. The Pharisees were overcome with religious power rather than with Christ. Peter says that they are “entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome.” For a moral, religious person like a Pharisee, this is impossible to see in themselves, much less accept. To that person, the world, is only the bad things in the world. They do not see that the world is in and of itself (the good and the bad) has to burn. 2nd Peter 3:12. It needs to be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth. To live for this world is to be overcome and entangled.
Peter makes some very frightening conclusions in chapter 2. Verses 20b through 22 say, “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them to not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned unto its own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
The objection is made that this is not a saved person. This is Lot for sure. His latter end on earth was way worse than his beginning. He certainly returned to his own vomit and wallowed in the mire.
The warnings of this chapter are to saved people. They are plainly the believers of the faith (1:1-4) who do not add to their faith (1:5-8) who are blind concerning this life and who have forgotten that they have been washed from their old sins. (1:9) They are constantly falling. (1:10)
END NOTE My own personal observation of many Bible “scholars” who push and promote “Expository Preaching”, which is the preaching the context of the passage, is that they don’t. 2nd Peter might be the greatest example of this failure. They treat Peters’ writing as a group of disjointed and disconnected verses. I do love and respect most of them, but in this instance I am quite convinced that they are wrong.