The Aggressiveness of Defeat and the Faithfulness of God

2 Peter

Introduction: The passages for today assume that divine revelation exists and has brought truth to fallen creatures. Truth always is aimed at the heart—the center of knowledge, affections, and conduct. Jude 3 asserts that there is a body of truth, “the faith,” that has been delivered to the saints as a final authority for faith and practice. Second Peter 1:21 has affirmed that divine revelation has occurred that gives access to the only true light shining in a world overshadowed by the darkness of error. Corrupt hearts all too readily will receive falsehood; with approval they will embrace ideas that approve their unsanctified intuitions and promote their license to disclaim the rightful rule of God over them.. Ironically, they often will be drawn to centers of cognitive and moral influence in order the gain an audience and secure a following. This is why so often we find corrupt teachers and disturbingly immoral episodes centering in churches. This is the method of Satan himself. He entered the Garden of Eden and immediately began to use the revealed truth of God as the starting place for his goal of corrupting God’s image-bearers (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5). Even so it was with the false prophets in Israel, and so it is now with those who pervert both the content and the principle of holiness embodied in Holy Scripture (2 Chronicles 18:12-22).

I. The Reality of False Teachers

A. Text – verse 1 – “There will be false teachers” comports with Jude 18 where he cites the apostles as having said, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

1. The perverters of truth and morals appeared in Israel, not from the outside but “among the people” and Peter says there “will be false teachers among you.” Jude warns, “these are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves,” evidently arising even in the teaching ministry of the church. They are not interested in feeding, that is, promoting the spiritual well being, of the flock, but only in feeding themselves. Jude refers to a specific method of these self-seeking destroyers: “showing favoritism to gain advantage” (16).

2. Warnings against such are a common theme among the Apostles: cf. 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:10; Acts 20:28-30; 1 John 3:4-10; 4:1-6. The church at Ephesus was commended (Revelation 2:2) for their refusal to “tolerate evil men” and that they “put to the test those who call themselves apostles and are not.”

B. In a subtle and secret ways they bring in heresies.

1. Both Peter and Jude point to the Person of Christ as a chief target of these false teachers—“denying the Master who bought them,” (2:1); they “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). These teachers attacked, and still do, the true deity of Christ as the eternal Son of the Father. They deny that he is Lord and as such operates as the rightful sovereign over all people. The word “bought” does not refer to the atoning work of Christ but refers to him as the “despot” [Gr. despotes ] who owns them, has sovereign rights over them as Creator, and has exercised his rights over them, both for common blessings and for judgment, by his providential arrangement of all things (Acts 4:29, “And now, Lord [despotes].”

2. In perverting the “grace of our God” (Jude 4), the work of Christ as a redeemer by substitutionary death is resisted and grace is interpreted so as to give license for sensuality (“Many will follow their sensuality” (2:2); “Pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (Jude 4).

3. Their source of authority sweeps aside the apostolic witness. These people rely “on their dreams” (Jude 8) rather than the objective, historically-founded revelation given to the apostles. Their greediness drives them to “exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3). The wild dependence on dreams, impressions, intuitions, and claims of personal revelation contrasts strongly with Peter’s insistence on the authority of the apostles as witnesses and recipients of revealed truth. Like the prophets under the Old Covenant, the apostles received the revelation that explained all the benefits, provision, and terms of the New Covenant. Read 1 Corinthians 3:10, 11; 4:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 13:8-10; 1 Peter 1:10-12, 22-25; 5:1; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6). The substitution of personal opinions, dreams, philosophy, evolutionary psychology and sociology for scriptural authority in matters pertaining to God, human origins and purpose, salvation, human sin and morality, and the nature of eternity places the understanding of ultimate issues on false grounds.

4. Way of salvation – These teachers are called “slaves of corruption” and, having known the way of righteousness, have “turned back from the holy commandments delivered to them.” Their grasp of justification by faith, the nature of law and gospel relations in Scripture, and the true character of divine mercy and eternal life has escaped them. Jude 20-23 indicates that the Trinitarian foundation of salvation has been dismissed, and that those in danger of sinking into these errors must be snatched out of the hovering danger of eternal punishment.

II. The Motivation of False Teachers

A. Sensuality – 2 Peter 2:2, 13 and 14

1. Completely given over to dissipation (13) they are called “spots and blemishes.” Compare this to 1 Peter 1:19 where Jesus is described as “without spot or blemish.”

2. They cannot see a woman without considering her a potential adulteress with him. The text says literally “eyes full of adulteresses.” This also is true of some women in their view of men such as Potiphar’s wife. Also see the warning in Proverbs 7:6-27.

3. Unable to stop sinning because they are slaves of corruption and insatiable for sin (2 Peter 2:14, 19).

4. They play upon the weak. “They entice unsteady souls.” Proverbs 5: 23 looks at the pitiful scene and concludes, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” Verse 18, 2 Peter 2, reinforces the disgusting, soul-destroying scenario, “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.”

B. Greed – “They have hearts trained in greed” (2 Peter 2: 14-16) and have learned how to exploit the religious motivations of their followers.

C. Assumption of power and knowledge 11, 12 and 17, 18

1. They make great show of their religious power and their ability to command spiritual beings. They assume to themselves an authority in the realm of spiritual warfare that even angels do not assume (Jude 8-10).

2. They make great show of their “Faith”, its strengths, and the rewards they receive for it. This kind of showmanship is too common in pseudo-evangelical culture.

III. The Manner of Judgment of False Teachers

A. Swift destruction – 1 –Look at the quickness of the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Look at the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who acted pridefully and presumptuously in their calling as priests and made a show of their position as the offerers of sacrifice by using unwarranted fire in the sacrifice (Leviticus 10:1-3).

B. Delayed but certain – Romans 2:4, 5; “. . . You are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Jude 13b points out that it is for such deceivers that “the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” Peter also warned, “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (3).

C. Severe – Earthly demonstrations of flood and fire are just finite manifestations of the helplessness that one will sense under the eternal wrath of God. Peter mentions the judgment of angels, the judgment of the world during the time of Noah, and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude points out the judgment that fell on the people of Israel even after their rescue from Egypt, as well as the rebellious angels and Sodom and Gomorrah.

D. Aggravation of judgment – 2 Peter 2: 21, 22 is given in light of the great advantages such teachers had, how they had been intermingled with the company of the redeemed, how they had heard the revealed truth of the apostolic message and in spite of such light have preferred darkness; in spite of such truth, they preferred error; in spite of such goodness and righteousness, they preferred their native habitat of worldly pleasure and power. Compare this with the warning Jesus gave in Matthew 11:20-24—woes pronounced on “Chorazin . . Bethsaida; . . . cf w/Tyre and Sidon; Capernaum cf. with Sodom

IV. Rescue and Return – 9, 10

A. God’s purpose is to rescue His people by preserving them from temptation [the fulfillment of it] and thus judgment. “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2:9)

1. Trial of affliction – James 1:2-4, 12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.;” also 1 Peter 3:17 “For it is better if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

2. Temptation to evil – God is not the proper actor in this temptation – James 1: 13; But he does make a way of escape, 1 Corinthians 10:13. The Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). God put his Son, enfleshed in our nature, into a place so that his righteousness could be tested, advanced, approved, and made perfect (Hebrews 5:8, 9). The temptation was real as Satan spoke to felt-needs, to Jesus’ mission, and to the knowledge of his person. He proposed plausible ways of fulfilling each; to have succumbed would have involved the most grotesque contradiction to the divine purpose and person imagineable. Jesus overcame by his love for his Father and his knowledge of the true meaning of the Word of God, as well as a full acceptance of the purpose for which he came (John 12:27, 28; 118:36-38).

3. Jude points to their rescue by the appropriate use of means.
Personal discipline and awareness is paramount (20, 21).
Strong exhortation and warning to those tottering on the edge of error and corruption is also necessary (22, 23).

4. The divine purpose to preserve his people and bring them safely into his presence is the only truly effectual means by which sinners “prone to wander” may be brought finally to the sinless glory and joy of heaven (Jude 24, 25).

B. The ungodly return to that to which they have been captive all along and thus that judgment which has lingered over them comes to pass – 22; Their knowledge (2:20) was unfruitful (1:8, cf. Hebrews 6:7, 8).

V. Sobering Reflections

A. Are you persevering in the truth? You cannot ignore the truth claims of Christianity and be a Christian.

B. Do you persevere under trial? This is God’s way of purifying you.

C. Do you flee temptation to moral evil. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “Therefore flee from idolatry” to Timothy “Flee youthful lusts” 1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain form fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”

D. Cultivate the implications of your knowledge of Christ; do not let it be a witness against you in the day of judgment.


Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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