About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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False Teachers And There Destruction (ch. 2:1 - 22)

Peter has just spoken about the prophets of God of the Old Testament who spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Not everyone who claimed to be a prophet in Old Testament times was really prophets of God.  There were many false prophets, speaking false prophecy that people would rather hear.  Peter uses these false Old Testament prophets as a springboard to move the discussion over to New Testament false prophets and false teachers.  As I've already pointed out earlier, the general consensus is that the false prophets that Peter was addressing were "Antinomian Gnostics". 


In Peter's day, as in our day, which is always the tendency, certain so-called Christians attempted to fuse Christian thought with Gnostic thought, which if you think of it, is impossible.  We're doing the same today by attempting to fuse Islam with Christianity.  The two religions are diametrically opposed to each other and cannot be mixed together.  The reason for this is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Islam views Jesus as a prophet of God.  Christianity views Jesus as the Son of God, that is, God in human flesh.  These two concepts can't be fused.


Antinomian Gnostics believed all things spiritual are good and all things physical are bad.  Therefore a good God could never be incarnated into an evil human body.  Again, this is diametrically opposed to Biblical thinking.  This clearly flies in the face of the Deity of Christ, one of the most basic truths of Christianity.  There is simply no logic in fusing Christianity with Gnosticism.


Peter begins verse 1 by referring back to the Old Testament false prophets.  He says that just as there were false prophets back in Old Testament days, there will be false teachers in New Testament days, and that includes our day today. As a matter of fact when Jesus speaks of the end of this age in Matthew 24 He specifically says that the rise of false prophets and teachers will increase as we draw near the end.              


Peter says that these false teachers “will secretly introduce false heresies”.  The Greek word “lathra” is the word that is translated as “secretly”.  It gives the picture of a false teacher sneaking into a church, in a covert style mission, to infiltrate the people with the idea to win them over to their false teaching.


We should note that Jesus does nothing in secret.  Those who live in the kingdom of God should be like Jesus and do everything above board and in the open. Doing things in secret for false motives is deceptive, and any form of deceptiveness is ungodly


Peter says that these men “will introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord”.  There have been many “destructive heresies” over the centuries, but denying the “sovereignty of Jesus” is especially bad.  The “sovereignty of Jesus” means that Jesus is God.  The Deity of Christ is the foundation to Christian teaching.  You cannot; you must not; set aside the Deity of Christ.   


Peter uses the term “who bought them”.  Jesus bought all mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross.  He paid the price to God His Father in order for those who trust in Him to be reconciled to God.  This is what is known as "redemption". 


The question is often raised here.  "Were these Gnostic Christians"?  The same question is raised about the Judaizers in the book of Galatians.  Some suggest that these false teachers were Christians, or, at least once were Christians, because Peter says that Jesus bought their salvation.  Jesus paid the price for their salvation so they must be saved, or, at least must have been saved.  I don't see this to be true because as Hebrews 2:9, 1 John 2:2, and 1 Timothy 2:6, states, Jesus paid the price for all men to be saved. 


It's my opinion that these men were not Christian, or, they were defectors from the faith.  1 John 2:18 and 19 might paint the right picture of who these false teachers were.  They were in church circles but never were part of the true church.  As John puts it, "they were among us but not of us".  This would be confirmed when Peter says in verse 1 that these men secretly snuck into the church.  They were among Christians, but weren't Christians themselves.     


Still in verse 1, Peter states that these false teachers “will bring swift destruction on themselves”.  In the process of their attempt to destroy the church, they themselves will be destroyed.  Such destruction could easily be seen as a judgement by God. 


The words "swift destruction" tell us that the destruction of these false teachers isn't judgment at the end of this age but destruction in Peter's day.  This tells us something about the judgment of God.  God's judgment, whether on individuals, the church, or nations, doesn't always take place at the end of this age.  It often takes place in real time.  This is something that many Christians just don't understand. 


Verse 2 says that “many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into dispute.”  The word "shameful" tells us something else about these false teachers.  Shameful relates to immorality in the Bible.  This is a strong hint that the false teachers are "Antinomian Gnostics".  The word "Antinomian" means "no law".  This particular subgroup of Gnosticism believed that sense spirit was good and flesh was evil, there was absolutely no way to control one's flesh, so, you might as well sin and enjoy the sin at the same time.  Thus they indulged themselves in many immoral sexual practices that Peter called shameful.    


Peter says that many in the church will follow the way of these shameful false teachers.  This doesn't just effect the reputation of the church as seen by the eyes of the world.  As Peter says, it “brings the truth into dispute”.  People will dispute the truth of the gospel because of these false teachers.  People will deny the truth of the gospel because of the bad behaviour of those in the church, and also those who claim to be Christian and are not, as in this case of false teachers.


One of the biggest problems the church faces today is its hypocrisy.  We claim one way of thinking but live another way.  This not only makes the church look bad in the eyes of the world, it makes the truth of Scripture look bad in the eyes of the world.  


I believe that church leaders are responsible for making sure that false teaching does not creep into the  church.  In my opinion, today's church leaders are doing a poor job at this, mainly because many have downplayed the importance of the Bible in both the life of the church and the lives of individuals within the church. . 


In verse 3 Peter sheds some light on the motives for some of these false teachers.  He says that “greed” is the motive for many of these false teachers.  Peter says that these teachers will actually “exploit” Christians “with their stories”.  Their teaching is only made up stories that they know will interest people.  I think of today’s explosion of positive thinking and motivational speakers who make a good income at speaking in Christian conferences. The gospel of Jesus is far more than a “motivational speech”. 


It's my thinking that the modern day Prosperity Movement with prosperity teachers comes very close, if it is not, exploitation of Christians.  Prosperity teaching basically states that as kids of the King, meaning Jesus, we can have it all.  It's playing on our human tendency of greed and wanting more than what is good for us.


The Bible warns us against such greediness from false teachers in Micah 3:11, 1 Timothy 6:5, and Titus 1:11.   


In verse 3 Peter pictures the condemnation of these men as a dark cloud hanging “over them that has not been sleeping”.  Sooner or later these men will reap what they have sown.  Some men reap what they sow in this life, while others will reap what they sow in the next, or a combination of both.  That being said, I believe what Peter is saying here is that the cloud of judgment and condemnation on these men won't take place at the end of this age.  The clouds of judgment will burst on these men at any time. 


We should distinguish here from overt heresy and wrong teaching that is based on a lack of understanding, yet with good motives.  Wrong teaching, no matter where it comes from is not good, but Peter is specifically pointing out false teachers who know what they are doing.  He is not speaking about Christians who say something that is not doctrinally correct and don't know it.  Many of us are wrong on some point in our beliefs, but we are not classified as false teachers.  We are not overtly attempting to distort the gospel and draw people unto ourselves. 


Before I comment on verses 4 and 5 we need some background information.  I warn you in advance, that some of what I say is not accepted by all Bible teachers, but, is a well held position over the centuries both in Christianity and Judaism by well educated and scholarly teachers. 


In Genesis 5:21 – 24 we see Enoch.  The name "Enoch" means "dedicated".  The text states that "Enoch walked with God".  He was a very godly man.  The text also states that he did not die.  It simply says, "He was no more because God took him away". Enoch had a son named "Methuselah".  Methuselah had a son named "Lamech", who was Noah's father.  Although I have not fully worked out the math, it is said that the year Methuselah died was the year the flood came.  Some suggest, not all, that the name "Methuselah" means, "when he dies, it shall be sent'. Those who understand this to be the meaning of the name "Methuselah" link his death to the flood.  Others believe "Methuselah" means "man of the javelin or worshipper". 


From Genesis 5 we now go to Genesis 6:1 - 4.  It reads as follows.  "When men began to increase on the earth and when daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose … The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterwards when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.  They were the heroes of old, men of renown."     


The question is raised.  "Who are these "sons of God"?  Some believe that there were two lines of humans prior to the flood.  One good line of people from Seth and one bad line of people from Cain.  Those who believe this also believe the "sons of God" mentioned here are those of the lineage of Cain.  I don't really believe this.


I do tend to believe, with some reservation, that these "sons of God" were bad fallen angels.  This means that angels would have had sex with women.  That sounds weird, but there are a vast number of well respected theologians who believe this.  It's been a position taken by many in both Christianity and Judaism. 


I would suggest that just because something sounds weird and strange to us doesn't mean we should reject it.  I would suggest that the resurrection of Jesus sounds pretty strange and we certainly don't reject that.  


You might say that Jesus said in Matthew 22:30 that angels don't give in marriage.  What Jesus said might well be that angels don't marry, not that they don't have the capability of sexual relations.  If that doesn't convince you, we do know there are all sorts of different types of angelic beings in the spiritual world, both good and evil.  The four living creatures, cherub, seraphim, principalities, powers, and on it goes.  These particular angels might well be a type of angel that was capable of sexual activity.  We also know that angels often appear as men in the Bible.  It might be quite possible that as they appear as men, they have the capability of being sexual.  


When it comes to angels there is more that we don't know about them than there is that we do know about them.  The Bible speaks of angels, but not to the degree that clues us in on the totality of the angelic world. 


Whatever the case, children born to this angel human daughter intimacy were giants, were heroes, and men of renown.  The word "Nephilim" is translated from the Hebrew word "nephiyl".  "Nephiyl" comes from the Hebrew word "naphal", meaning, "to fall".   Some versions, including the KJV, translate this "Nephilim" as giants, but it seems more likely that the word should be understood in terms of "fallen excellent, noble, or, skillful ones".   The ancient world seems to have associated "nephiyl" with the constellation Orion, thus its association with angels.      


The term "sons of God", or, "ben elohiym" is used three other places in the Old Testament.  They are, Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7.  In these three cases, it is clear the term "sons of God" refers to angels.  Also, in Daniel 3:25 "bar Elohiym" (Son of God) is used in reference to the fourth man in the furnace of fire, namely Jesus.  


We note that these Nephilim lived both prior to the flood, and "afterwards".  This might be the reason why we see them again in Numbers 13:31. 


It is interesting that the Alexandrian Septuagint translates the word "sons of God" in Genesis 6:1 as "angels of God".  This means that the Jewish translators of the Septuagint believed the sons of God were in fact angels.  What makes this interesting is that much of the New Testament writers read and drew their thinking from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament.  It is therefore thought that the first generation church viewed the sons of God as angels, just like their Jewish heritage would have taught them.


Now we turn to Jude 6.  I mentioned in my introduction that Jude and Peter use exactly the same phrases. As if one of them plagiarized the other.  I'm not convinced that one just copied from the other. These phrases might well have been common phrases among Christians, or, maybe Jude and Peter had been in close contact with each other and talked these things over.  


Jude quotes from the book of Enoch as we see in Jude 14 through 16.  Jude appears to be quoting from 1 Enoch 1:9 and 10.  The book of Enoch has never been accepted into the canon of Scripture in most Christian circles, although in some circles it is accepted into the canon of Scripture.  It seems to date around 300 B. C. and seems to ascribed to the Enoch in Genesis 5.     


Scholars who believe the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are fallen angels believe that Jude 6, 14 and 15 are speaking of these fallen angels who had sex with women.  Let's look at what Jude says about these angels.  Jude says that these angels had a "position of authority".  He then said that they "abandoned their own home."  If these angels are the angels of Genesis 6, it would be clear that these fallen angels left their heavenly home to unite themselves with women.  God judged these fallen angels by putting them in eternal chains.  Then, on the Day of Judgment, they'll be judged again. 


Jude 7 is very enlightening if you believe the angels spoken of by Jude are the fallen angels of Genesis 6.  Jude says that "in a similar way" Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves to sexual immorality.  What Jude says here is that the angels spoken of in verse 6 gave themselves to sexual immorality as those in Sodom and Gomorrah did. 


Now we will go to 2 Peter 2:4.  Here Peter is basically telling the false teachers that if God judged angels for their sin, you can bet he'll judge all false teachers for their sin.  In verses 4 and 5 Peter said the following.  "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah …"   


Peter is speaking of the same pre-flood fallen angels that Jude spoke of'; those who had left their home to have sex with women.  God sent them to hell.  The Greek word "tartarus" is translated as "hell' here.  This is the only place in the New Testament that "tartarus" is used.  This might well be because Peter is addressing mostly Gentile believers who would understand the meaning of "tartarus".  "Tartarus' in Greek mythology was a subterranean place where the wicked dead were located.  It was a place lower than Hades.  Peter said these fallen angels were put their by God as a means of judgment.  Jude tells us that once God put them in this dark and gloomy dungeon, He then put them in eternal chains. 


Like Jude, Peter, in verse 6 links these fallen angels with Sodom and Gomorrah , although Peter doesn't specifically speak of sexual immorality and Jude does. 


As a side note, it is interesting that other old cultures and civilizations, like the Roman Empire , the Greek Empire, and those before, have similar historical stories to that which the Bible has; the flood of Genesis 6 included.  I suggest that these stories are a distortion of the true Biblical record. 


In Greek mythology, Titans were half god's or angels, and half men who sinned against the god Zeus.  Zeus decides to give up his throne to his son Dionysus.  The Titans attempt to lure Dionysus with toys.  Their intention was to catch him, kill him, boil and roast his limbs and eat him.  Zeus caught the Titans and killed them.  I simply mention this because the Titans were half men and half gods.  Where did they get this idea?  Like other mythologies, they might well have gotten this from a distorted view of Genesis 6 and the fallen angels who produced half men and half angel beings when have sex with the daughters of men in Genesis 6. 


We think things are bad today, but they cannot be as bad as they were back in pre-flood days.  If the  "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are really fallen angels who had sex with human women, producing giants, heroes, and men of renown, then things got so bad, that is, the mixing of angels and humans, that God caused the flood. 


It's interesting to note that Jesus said that as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be before his return. (Matthew 24:37)  Some today suggest that we might well have the same kind of angel human mixture as there was before the flood.  In one sense of the word, the anti-Christ is an example.  He is satan incarnated in a human man.


Concerning the flood, things can't be as bad in the world today as they were prior to the flood or else God would have brought on another judgment.  There had to be something different going on in the world that is going on now for God to bring about such a judgment, that He has not brought to the earth since. The mixture of angels and women might just be the difference between then and now.  


Note in verse 5 that Noah was a preacher of righteousness.  The Genesis account does not mention this, but Peter did.


Note also in verse 5 that God protected Noah from the flood.  The point here is that God protects those who are truly His when His wrath comes on the earth, as He did with Lot , as seen in verse 7.   Some Bible teachers use this in support of a pre-trib rapture.


In verse 6 Peter mentions the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an act of divine judgment.  This was to be an example to other societies, both in Peter's day and throughout history since Peter's day.  Of course Sodom and Gomorrah was very sexually immoral, including homosexuality, and quite possibly the same kind of angel human sexuality as we saw in Genesis 6. 


Verses 7 and 8 speak about Lot .  Peter paints a much better picture of Lot being a righteous man than what we see in the Genesis account.  That being said, Peter said that Lot was tormented prior to the destruction of Sodom .  Many people point out that righteous people, us included, can be tortured by our society, prior to the wrath of God coming on that society, but, once the wrath comes, the righteous are spared, as Lot was.  This is what Peter is really saying in verse 9.  God will rescue the righteous as He punishes the unrighteous. 


In verse 10 Peter points out two particular sins of these false teachers.  One is following our corrupt nature, which obviously leads to all sorts of sin.  The other is not following proper authority, as I would suggest is linked to the angels who left their home and place of authority in the pre-flood days.  The word "authority" here is translated from a form of the Greek word "kyrios" that we translate into English as "Lord".  In Colossians 1:16 it's translated as one of the ranks of angels.  The KJV uses the word "government".  




Some people suggest that the authority being spoken of here is religious or civil authorities.  I tend not to believe that.  I see the context here as being angelic authorities.  


In the last half of verse 10 and into verse 11 Peter says that these false teachers he has been talking about are arrogant.  They are not afraid to slander “celestial beings”, or, "dignities" in the KJV.  You can see there is some trouble translating this into English.  The NIV thinks Peter is speaking of angelic beings and the KJV translators don't really specify who they think Peter is thinking of. 


Note that Peter distinguishes between angels and celestial beings here.  That's assuming the NIV has the proper translation.   That's also assuming Peter is using two ways of viewing the same spiritual beings. So, as I've said before, in the spirit world, or, the angelic world, there are numerous types of beings.  We see two here in angels and celestial beings.     


Verses 11 and 12 are hard to understand.  Most commentators compare these verses with Jude 8 and 9 where the same wording is used.  Jude tells us about Michael the angel contesting with the devil over the body of Moses.  There is no doubt that Jude is quoting the non-canonical Jewish book of the Assumption of Moses.  Why both Jude and Peter would quote this non-canonical book is simply unknown.  It's probable that they were drawing on information that the people of his day believed to back his point.  Also, even though the canon of Old Testament books had been developed, the canon of our Bible as we have it today in the Protestant world had not yet been developed.


In Deuteronomy 34:5 and 6 we see that Moses died on Mount Nebo while in conversation with God.  Verse 6 states that God actually buried Moses' body and the Jews had no clue where his burial site was.  We have no other Biblical record to prove what Jude quotes from the Assumption of Moses to be true.        


These false teachers slander celestial beings.  Part of the Gnostic doctrine concerned an emphases on angels and the spirit world.  They believed that there were many levels of angels between God and humans.  These levels were meant to separate God from sinful humanity.  They believed that Jesus was one of these created angels.  Gnostics claimed to have special secret information from the spirit world that the ordinary man didn't have.  Both Peter and Jude must have viewed Gnostic beliefs concerning angels as being slanderous.


It's clear to say that in these verses that Peter writes, we don't have his full thinking.  Therefore, we're really not sure how Peter viewed the angelic world.  We don't know if he accepted the Assumption of Moses' account or not.  I'm not convinced that because he quotes from it, that he actually believed it to be true, although I can see why people would think he did accept the validity of this non-canonical book.     


Peter goes on to say in verse 12 that these false teachers “blaspheme in matters that they don’t understand”.  They don’t understand because the motive of their teaching has more to do with greed than with understanding what they teach.  This is the way of the world.  So often on news reports of Christian things, reporters and others make statements that are clearly incorrect from a Biblical standpoint.  The reason for their error is their lack of understanding of Biblical things, as Peter says here.


Peter has no love for these false teachers.  He compares them to “brute beasts, creatures of instinct”.  These men are like animals who follow natural instincts and not solid mental understanding.  Humans use their thinking capabilities along with natural instincts, while animals follow basic instincts more than mental abilities.  The problem with human natural instincts is that they are inherently sinful.  The only reason why these men should exist in Peter's thinking is so God can judge and destroy them.


Peter uses some very strong words here.  Such strong words would not be tolerated in today's world, but Christians must not go soft when it comes to false teaching.  When I say false teaching, I'm not talking about secondary issues.  I'm talking about primary issues that go to the heart of our Christian thinking, and in this case, the primary issue is the Deity of Christ.  


In verse 13 Peter says that these false teachers “will be paid back with harm”.  He is most likely speaking of the Day of Judgement.  The Bible teaches that Christians should not repay evil with evil, because God Himself will do the repaying on the Day of the Lord, and He can do a much better job at repaying than we can do.  I believe this is what is being said here.


You might wonder why Peter uses the word "harm" in this verse.  These Gnostic false prophets were doing great harm to the church.  So, in like manor to their sin, great harm would be done to them in judgment.  Basically, the idea is what you sow you will reap.  If you sow harm, you will reap harm.  That being said, other translations do not use the word "harm".  The KJV uses the phrase "reward for unrighteousness", which might actually be a better way to put it.      


In verse 13 Peter points out the sins of these false teachers.  He says that they “carouse in broad daylight”.  Many pagans would openly have wild sex parties in the city center.  These teachers obviously were involved in such activity.  They were involved in such sexual immorality because of their Antinomian Gnostic belief system that stated all human flesh was evil and beyond any means of change.  Therefore, there's no use fighting the flesh.  You simply give in and do whatever your sinful flesh wants too do.    


Peter says that they are “blots and blemishes”.  They stain the society around them, as well as themselves with their sinful lifestyle. While they are in the process of such staining, they feast with Christians, causing blemish on the church as well. 


It's clear that these pagan Gnostics were interacting with the church, to the degree that they ate together.  You might wonder why the church would allow this.  Human tendency, and that includes human Christian tendency, has always been to unite with those who oppose you.  We do the same today in our attempt to unite Islam with Christianity, or other religions with Christianity.  This is not right.   


Pagans might well have taken advantage of the church in the sense that the church called their gatherings "love feasts".  The term love feast to pagans would mean something altogether different that to Christians.  Love feasts to the pagan Gnostics would imply a sex party.  


In verse 14 Peter says, "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning".  These sexual sins are not an every so often event.  Their eyes are always looking for new adulterous situations to be involved in.  Again, the basis for this adultery was their Antinomian Gnosticism.  Part of their involvement in church circles might well have been to seduce the women in the church.  This might be what Peter means when he says that these men "seduce the unstable".  That being said, in this Roman culture homosexuality was ramped.  Therefore the word "unstable" could refer to men as well.  The context in my thinking seems to imply unstable in sexual ways but some commentaries suggest it's unstable in thinking, not just sexually unstable.    


Peter continues to say that "they are experts in greed, and they follow the way of Balaam".  "Experts in greed" tell us that these men weren't only sexually immoral, they were greedy.  This was far from godly behaviour.   We need to realize that even though this was far from godly behaviour, it was the norm for Roman society.  People really didn't know any better.  It was how they were raised.  Boys were raised at an early age to have sex with other boys and men.  They were taught to view girls and women as "baby machines". 


In verse 16 Peter associates these false teachers with Balaam who we see in the Old Testament as a non-Jewish prophet.  Balaam turned out to be a very greedy man and was judged by God for his sin.   Peter reminds his readers that Balaam had to be rebuked by a donkey.  This is clearly meant to be a slam against these Gnostic teachers.


Peter used the word "madness" in relation to Balaam.  By comparing the false teachers with Balaam, Peter was saying that these Gnostic teachers were mad, were insane.  They were insane because the fusion of Antinomian Gnosticism with Christianity is illogical.  You can't mix the two because the basis of Christianity is that Jesus is God in human flesh.  Gnostics did not believe this.  So, how could you fuse the two together when the basic tenants of both oppose each other?    


Peter doesn’t end in his railing against these men.  He says in verse 17, “these men are springs without water”, meaning these men are empty.  They claim to be something they weren’t. “They are mists driven by a storm”.  These men have no stability and when the storms of life blow there way, they blow wit the wind.  Because of this, “blackest darkness” is reserved for them.  Peter uses two words here, “blackness" and "darkness” for emphasis sake.  This isn't jus darkness.  Neither is it just blackness.   It's the blackest of darkness that one could experience.  The place that God has prepared for these false teachers is that darkest place known. This would be "tartarus" as we saw back in verse 4 where we see the Greek word "tartarus" translated into English as "hell".


In verse 18 Peter says that they "mouth empty and boastful words that appeal to human nature".  Once again, basic human nature is evil, not good.  Therefore the things these men speak are spoken in order to entice those who follow their sinful nature.  The situation is circular.  That is, they speak things that sinful nature wants to hear.  Then our sinful nature hears the words and ask for more, resulting in more empty words.  And on and on it goes.


These men were all about playing on our sinful nature, like many modern preachers do today.  I believe present day prosperity teachers do the same today.  They play on our greed for more.  They stir up the lust for worldly things within us and say we can have all we want from the Lord.  They say that having it all is just part of the gospel of Christ.     


One way in which you can distinguish a false teacher from a real teacher is that if the teacher appeals to your sinful nature, you can next to bet he is a false teacher.  This is why I say that many prosperity gospel teachers are false teachers since they appeal to our lust for more material possessions.      


Also in verse 18 Peter says that these teachers entice those who have just escaped from their lives of error.  These men prey on new Christians who are in the process of escaping the corruption of the world.  Once again we see Peter’s use of the word “escape”.  He feels that Christians should understand that they need to escape from the things of the world.  These false teachers are trying to seduce new Christians back into the world.  These Gnostics believed that there was no escape from the world and that's why they gave themselves to fleshly lusts.


In verse 19 Peter says that these teachers offer their listeners “freedom while they themselves are slaves to depravity”.  You see Peter’s thinking on the theological doctrine of “the depravity of man” here.  Both Peter and Paul agree that man is depraved.  Paul clearly points this out in Romans chapters 1 and 2.  Mankind is trapped in his fallen state of depravity.  This means that there is no good within man, especially when compared to God’s standard of goodness.  We cannot get out of this depraved state on our own.  We need to escape by the help of the Holy Spirit.  This happens when one is truly born again.  Then, once being reborn by the Holy Spirit, you live by the power of the same Spirit.


The Antinomian Gnostics would believe like Peter when it comes to the depravity of man and that man had no capacity to escape this depravity.  Where the Gnostics and Peter disagreed was that God came to earth in Jesus so that the Holy Spirit could come to live within man to free man from his depravity. 


Peter continues by saying that “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him”.  A smoker is a slave to his cigarettes.  Anyone who is addicted to anything is a slave to that thing.  When it comes to our own sinful human nature, we are all addicted to it.  We all tend towards serving ourselves and fulfilling our human fleshly lusts.


During the decade of the 1960's the youth were searching for freedom.  No man is really free, and the youth of the 60's were no different.  They may have freed themselves from one world system, but in the process, they enslaved themselves to another world system.  In one real sense of the word, people are either slaves to satanic forces or slaves to Godly forces.   


Verse 20 speaks to the issue of Christians falling back into a non-Christian, and in this case, a pagan, lifestyle.  For those who backslide, the end for them is worse than the beginning.  This is a hard statement to get our heads around.  Some might suggest that this means "once saved always saved", or, "eternal security" as it's been called, is unbiblical.   Those who believe in eternal security believe such people weren't really saved in the firs place.  


In verse 21 Peter continues this thought.  He says that it would have been better for one to not have known the way of the Lord, than to know it and walk away from it.  This gets to the seriousness of becoming a Christian and just what a Christian is all about.  Becoming a Christian is more than making a decision to follow Jesus.  It's repenting of your sin.  It's handing your life over to Jesus.  It's receiving the Holy Spirit.  It's responding to the call of God when He calls on you.  It's my thinking that many who claim to have become a Christian, even at an altar in a church service don't necessarily become Christians.  It's also my thinking that many Evangelicals, in their enthusiasm, have done more harm than good by forcing people to make a quick so-called decision for Christ.  The decision for Christ should only be made once the person understands the cost involved. 


How you interpret the word "known" in verse 21 will determine your stance on eternal security in relation to this verse.  If the word "known" means to simply know and understand, then one might say those who knew the way of righteousness weren't saved.  If the word "known" is to "know experientially" the way of righteousness, as I think it might mean, then you'd believe these people were saved and that they walked away from their salvation.  If they walk away from salvation, how can they remain saved?  To me the term "way of righteousness" suggests a lifestyle of right living, not just the knowledge of right living.  This would mean these people actually lived the righteous life and now have walked away from it.   


What does Peter mean when he uses the word "command' in verse 21?  In context, I believe the command is the command to be saved, and what needs to be done to be saved. 


Verse 22 ends this chapter.  Peter quotes from Proverbs 26:11 when he says "a dog returns to its vomit".  This analogy shows us the life of one who turns back on the Lord.  He's like a dog returning to his vomit.  That doesn't sound very nice. 


Peter uses another proverb as an analogy.  He speaks of a pig returning to the mud.  Now this is not an Old Testament proverb.  Where Peter picks up this proverb is unknown.  It's probably a regular run of the mill street proverb used in everyday talk.  The Jewish Old Testament would not use an unclean animal like a pig to make such an analogy. 


These last three verses are tough verses.  They challenge some of our doctrinal positions.  Beyond that, they speak of the serious nature of actually becoming a Christian.  I believe that in many respects, Evangelicals have taken away the serious nature of becoming a Christian by their quick and easy salvation message.  We've preached come to Jesus and live happily ever after.  We've preached, "Repeat after me and become a Christian".  We've ignored the aspect of repentance in much of our preaching.  We haven't explained that faith is handing your entire life over to Jesus.  It's not adopting a belief system.  It's not accepting the idea that Jesus exists.  We've failed many times to lead people to receive the Holy Spirit.  We've told them to simply decide for Jesus and they'd be saved without understanding that becoming a Christian is responding to the call of God when He calls us, not before or not after.  There are so many ways we've done more harm than good over the years concerning this issue.  What Peter points out here is that becoming a Christian is a serious and life long matter.  God forbid that we minimize this.           


Another thing to note along this line is that becoming a Christian is not a matter of our choice alone.  We can't simply become a Christian just any old time we want to.  As Jesus said in John 6:44, no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him.  The Father draws us by means of the Holy Spirit.  I would suggest that becoming a Christian is more about God drawing us to Jesus than we simply deciding for Jesus.  This is why prayer for our loved ones is so important.


I realize that there are many passages that say, "Call on God and you will be saved".  Many of these passages are in the context of those doing the calling are in a bad situation that forces them to call out to God.  Thus, the situation that they find themselves in is part of the way in which the Father calls those people to Jesus.  As a matter of fact, the Greek word that is translated in English as "draws" in John 6:44 is often translated as "drag" in our English Bibles' as in, "drag a net of fish".        



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