David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
2 Peter 2
2 Peter 2:1-22 - THE RISE AND FALL OF FALSE TEACHERS
A. Facts about false teachers.
1. (2 Peter 2:1) The presence and work of false teachers.
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
a. But there were also false prophets: Even as there were holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), so also there were false prophets - and false teachers today. Peter states this as a fact, not a possibility; and he says they are among you, not only on the outside of the church
b. Who will secretly bring in destructive heresies: False teachers work secretly. It isn’t that their teaching is secret, but the deceptive nature of their teaching is hidden. Of course, no false teacher will announce himself as a false teacher!
c. Destructive heresies: False teachers bring in destructive heresies that destroy by telling lies about Jesus Christ and His work for us and in us. By these heresies people are hurt and destroyed. Heresy isn’t harmless.
d. Even denying the Lord who bought them: False teachers deny the Lord who bought them. In this, Peter says that at the very least, they appear to be saved, otherwise Peter would never say that the Lord bought them. At the same time, they are false, destructive teachers.
i. Just because a person has what appears to be a godly walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, they can still be bringing in destructive heresies. Often times, the worst damage is done by a good man who teaches lies. His lies are accepted far more easily because of the good character of the man.
e. Bring on themselves swift destruction: False teachers are promised swift destruction, even though they at least appear to be bought by the Lord, they are under His judgment.
2. (2 Peter 2:2) The popularity of false teachers.
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
a. Many will follow their destructive ways: This shows that just because something “works” in attracting a crowd of followers, it doesn’t mean that it is of God. We know that God’s work will always bear fruit, but the devil’s work can also increase.
i. The most distressing aspect of the work of false teachers is not that they are among you (2 Peter 2:1). False teachers always have been and always will be among Christians. The most distressing fact is that so many Christians will follow their destructive ways.
b. Because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed: When false teachers are at work, and when crowds are following them, the way of truth is blasphemed. God’s holy name and honor are disgraced.
3. (2 Peter 2:3) The strategy and destiny of false teachers.
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
a. False teachers use covetousness - both their own and in their followers. It is amazing how many of today’s false teachers present a gospel that has self-gratification at its heart. All this is presented with deceptive words, because false teaching never announces itself.
b. Their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber: Peter assures us that false teachers will be judged. Even though it seems they prosper, their judgment is not idle. God’s wrath pours out on them in allowing them to continue, thus heaping up more and more condemnation and hardness of heart in themselves.
B. God knows how to take care of both the righteous and the ungodly.
1. (2 Peter 2:4-6) The ungodly will be judged.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
a. If God did not spare the angels who sinned: God judged these wicked angels, setting them in chains of darkness. Apparently some fallen angels are in bondage while others are unbound and active in the earth as demons.
i. The sin of angels can be thought of in two main ways: in the original rebellion of some angels against God, and in the sin of the “sons of God” described in Genesis 6:1-2.
ii. By not keeping their proper place, they are now kept in chains of darkness. Their sinful pursuit of freedom put them in bondage. Those who insist on freedom to do whatever they want are like these angels: so free that they are bound with chains of darkness! True freedom comes from obedience.
iii. Cast them down to hell: The ancient Greek word translated hell is literally Tartarus. In Greek mythology, Tartarus was the lowest hell, a place of punishment for rebellious gods. Peter borrowed this word to speak of the place of punishment for the angels who sinned.
b. And did not spare the ancient world: God judged the ancient world, the world before Noah’s Flood, because the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
c. And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction: God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, making them an example of His judgment, because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave. (Genesis 18:20)
d. Making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly: These three examples of judgment show us the important principle that Peter wants to highlight.
Therefore, what makes the ungodly think they can escape God’s judgment? Their coming judgment is certain.
i. Or, as Jesus put it in Luke 10:10-12 to those who reject the truth: But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.” But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.
2. (2 Peter 2:7-9) The righteous will be delivered.
And delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds); then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
a. And delivered righteous Lot: Peter already told us how the Lord delivered Noah (2 Peter 2:5). Now, he shows us that the Lord delivered righteous Lot. Lot was righteous in God’s eyes, though perhaps it was hard for others to see his righteousness. Yet the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah tormented his righteous soul from day to day.
i. Lot’s soul was tormented, but he failed to follow through with godly actions and separate himself and his family from the ungodliness of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord delivered Lot because of his righteous soul; yet Lot lost everything because of his too-close association with those wicked cities.
b. Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations: Even as the Lord delivered Lot, He knows how to deliver us from the temptations we face, and He knows how to reserve the unjust for the day of judgment. We can trust in God’s deliverance of the godly because it is just as certain as His judgment of the ungodly.
i. The unjust have reservation made for them: they are reserved for the day of judgment. But believers have no such reservation. God will deliver us from the very day of judgment, from the very time of wrath that He pours out on the earth (Revelation 3:10).
C. A description of the ungodly among them.
1. (2 Peter 2:10-11) They are fleshly and proud.
And especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
a. And especially those who walk according to the flesh: These ungodly ones are especially reserved for judgment. They live according to the flesh, not the spirit, and are marked by uncleanness.
b. They are presumptuous, self-willed: These ungodly ones are proud, despising authority. In their presumption they will even speak ill of spiritual powers (Satan and his demons) that the angels themselves do not speak evil of, but the angels rebuke them in the name of the Lord instead.
i. Much of what goes on under the name of spiritual warfare shows this kind of pride and presumption. While we recognize our authority in Jesus, we see that it is only in Jesus that we have it - and we leave the reviling accusations to Him alone.
2. (2 Peter 2:12-13 a) Their spiritual doom is sealed.
But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.
a. Like natural brute beasts: Since they function in the flesh, not the spirit, they are like animals. They are fit only for destruction (made to be caught and destroyed) and they are ignorant.
b. And will receive the wages of unrighteousness: The ungodly will be “paid” for their evil - and their fleshly lives will be paid the wages of unrighteousness.
3. (2 Peter 2:13-17) A list of the sins of the false teachers.
They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
a. Carousing in their own deceptions: These ungodly false teachers are a dangerous and corrupting presence in the body of Christ, not only deceiving others but deceiving themselves.
b. Having eyes full of adultery: Their heart is set on the flesh, and their eyes on adultery, both spiritual and sexual. They prey on the unstable to join them in their ways (enticing unstable souls).
i. Literally, Peter says that their eyes are full of an adulterous woman. “They lust after every girl they see; they view every female as a potential adulteress.” (Green)
c. They have a heart trained in covetous practices: They are equipped, but not for ministry, only for selfish gain - they are truly accursed. We all train our hearts in something, either training them in covetousness and lust, or in godliness .
d. Following the way of Balaam: They are like Balaam, who was guilty of the greatest of sins - leading others into sin, and that for the sake of his own gain. Balaam had to be restrained by a dumb donkey because he would not listen to God.
e. These are wells without water: These ungodly false teachers are empty - useless as wells without water - and like clouds that bring only darkness, and no nourishing rain.
4. (2 Peter 2:18-19) The allure of the false teachers.
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
a. They speak great swelling words of emptiness: The message of the ungodly false teachers is empty of real spiritual content, though it is swollen big with words. Their allure is to the lusts of the flesh in their audience - just as the crowds who wanted bread from Jesus, but didn’t want Jesus Himself (John 6:25-27; John 6:47-66).
b. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves: They promise freedom, but freedom can never be found in the flesh, only in God’s Spirit. Freedom isn’t found in what Jesus can give us, but only in Jesus Himself. When we seek freedom in the wrong way, we become slaves of corruption (decay and death).
c. By him also he is brought into bondage: In being overcome by the flesh and the false teachers, they become slaves to both.
5. (2 Peter 2:20-22) The danger of falling away and following after false teachers
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
a. The latter end is worse for them than the beginning: It is better for a person to have never known a thing about Jesus than to hear some truth, hold to it, and later reject it. Greater revelation has a greater accountability.
b. A dog returns to his own vomit: Their nature as dogs is displayed by the way they return to the vomit of the flesh and the world. They are like the brute beasts described in 2 Peter 2:12, more animal that godly because they live for the flesh.
i. “The dog which has got rid of the corruption inside it through vomiting it up cannot leave well enough alone; it goes sniffing around the vomit again.” (Green)
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