YET EVERYTHING OF GOD, and therefore good, is counterfeited by Satanic power, consequently chapter 2 begins with a warning. When in old time the Holy Ghost was moving holy men to give us utterances from God the great adversary moved and brought in among the people false prophets. We have many examples of this in the Scripture. In the days of Ahab things had reached such a pass that Elijah could say, “I, even I only remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men” (1 Kings 18:22), and even after the destruction of the prophets of Baal there were about four hundred prophets luring Ahab to his death against one prophet, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, who told him the truth; and all these prophets spoke not in the name of Baal but said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper; for the LORD shall deliver it unto the king’s hand” (1 Kings 22:12).
Now once again God was giving prophetic testimony by inspired utterances through the apostle and others, and the adversary was preparing to repeat his tactics. Peter therefore warned these early Christians that they must be on their guard against false teachers who would bring in privily “damnable” or “destructive” heresies. Satan is never more dangerous than when he works privily or by stealth; when instead of delivering a frontal attack, boldly denying truth, he creeps in on the flank, making merchandise of the people of God with feigned words, as verse 2 Peter 2:3 puts it. Indeed the very word translated “privily shall bring in” means literally “shall lead in sideways.”
The flank attack invariably succeeds in much larger measure than the frontal attack. Illustrations of this are common. Many years ago, a bold direct attack on the Deity of Christ was launched, and a Unitarian body was formed. It remains to this day a comparatively insignificant movement. Of more recent years unitarian doctrine has been brought sideways into professedly orthodox denominations and the plague has spread like wildfire.
Be on your guard then against these false teachers. They will have a wholly pleasing exterior and their words will be “feigned” or “well-turned”—cleverly adapted to throw the simple believer off his guard. They will tell you how they believe in “the divinity of Christ”—but then of course they hold every man to be more or less divine. They accept the truth of “the atonement”—as long as you permit them to print it, “at-one-ment.” They can juggle marvellously with the word “eternal” and show you that it merely means “age-long” when it stands in connection with punishment. And so on.
They go even to the length of “denying the Lord that bought them.” He bought them for by His death He bought the whole of the world for the sake of the treasure hid therein (see, Matthew 13:44). It does not say that He redeemed them, for redemption applies only to the true believer. Revealing thus their true character they bring upon themselves swift destruction—which means, not that destruction will reach them in a very short time, but that when it comes it will fall upon them swiftly for their guilt admits of no question, and no lengthy judgment process will be necessary to establish it. Their judgment will not slumber. Yet alas! many will follow them, as we see; and the effect of their heresies is not merely the ruin of themselves and of their dupes but the bringing of the way of God into disrepute so that it is blasphemed. This is ever Satan’s way. In his blind hatred he may desire to ruin souls, but he even more ardently desires to discredit God and His truth.
God, however, is more than equal to dealing with the situation thus created. He is perfectly able to disentangle all the confusion, as verses 2 Peter 2:4-10 tell us. Read those seven verses, and notice that not one full stop comes until the last word of verse 2 Peter 2:10 is completed. They are one tremendous sentence. “If God spared not the angels... and spared not the old world... and... condemned with an overthrow [the cities]... and delivered just Lot... the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly... and to reserve the unjust... to be punished.” A most consoling fact this for the believer, however fearful it may be for the ungodly.
The “god” created mentally by “modern theology” who being too weak or too indifferent, spares everybody and everything, that thereby he may show himself to be “love”, is no more the God of the New Testament than he is of the Old. The God of the New Testament is the God of the Old as this Scripture emphasizes. When of old the angels sinned He did not spare them, but holds them in chains reserved for judgment. When the ante-diluvian world had filled up the cup of its iniquity God did not spare them though He saved a little remnant of eight souls in the ark. Later He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha yet He delivered righteous Lot. So it shall be again. He will deliver the godly and reserve the unjust to judgment, and this specially when they are marked by licentiousness and the despising of authority.
However much destructive heresies are brought in, and consequently people are deceived and the way of truth blasphemed, the Lord will know how to disentangle His people and judge the ungodly. We usually find it impossible even to discern, and much less can we disentangle. Who of us, reading only the story of Lot as unfolded in Genesis could discern with any certainty what was his true state before God? He shared Abraham’s path for a while, but did he at all share in Abraham’s faith? His subsequent history did not look like it, so who of us could tell? Our Scripture however sets all questions at rest. He is pronounced to have been a righteous man, though sadly enmeshed by the world and living a life of continual vexation in consequence. God knew him and delivered him by angelic hands.
What a voice this has for us. How pitiful for us if we get so entangled that, though true believers, it would not be possible for our fellows to decide that we were such except God Himself made a pronouncement on the point. It is intended on the contrary that we stand out from the world clear and distinct as epistles of Christ, “known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:3). This will be profitable for us in the day that is coming. It will deliver us too at the present time from much of that vexation of soul, that mental torment, that Lot suffered. The worldly believer is well nigh the most miserable of all men.
The two evils mentioned in verse 2 Peter 2:10 seems always to accompany “damnable heresies” as their natural result. The flesh finds an attraction in the heresies, because it loves to gratify itself and to do its own will and to despise and speak against all that would hold it in check. The truth puts the sentence of condemnation on the flesh; the heresy on the contrary fosters it.
These twin evils—self-gratification and that of the lowest character, and insubordination under the plea of obtaining a larger liberty—are very prominent in the latter part of this second chapter. The contrast between verses 2 Peter 2:11-12 is very striking. These false teachers are but men. Angels who are greater than man in their power and might would never impeach those in dignity or authority, however much they might deserve censure, in the reckless way these men do. But as a matter of fact these teachers, who speak of dignities in a way that would suggest that they themselves were greater than the angels, are really just like—not angels—but “natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed.” The poor animal without reason—for that is what the word “brute” means—may heedlessly destroy what it is not capable of understanding, like the proverbial bull in a china shop. These men are like that; they violently attack and destroy, as far as words can do it, what they do not understand.
Many teachers there are of “modernist” persuasion who exactly exemplify this. How trenchantly they attack the old foundations of the faith. What is the authority of a Paul, a Peter, a John or even indeed of Jesus Himself before their slashing words and pens? As a matter of fact however the simplest person, who being born again has become a child of God, is conscious that they have not the least comprehension of that which they attack. The most costly china is to a bull just what the truth of the Scriptures is to them.
Are some of us, who are old-fashioned believers in Christ, to tremble and be intimidated by these assaults? There is really no need for it. It may look as if nothing can stand before them in their mad career, but it is only so because God is very patient and has plenty of time in which to settle accounts. We remember a nursery picture and rhyme book which amused us in childhood’s days. There was the story of the bad dog who ran amuck and bit a large slice out of a man’s leg. The last words of the rhyme however were:
The man recovered from the bite
The dog it was who died!
We are irresistibly reminded of this by the closing words of verse 12. The faith of God survives in unbroken health; the false teachers “perish in their own corruption,” and receive the due reward of their unrighteousness.
How terrible is the indictment laid against them in verses 2 Peter 2:13-14! The adultery laid to their door may not be literal in all cases, but in its spiritual significance it certainly applies to all false teachers, for they all either teach or sanction unholy alliance with the world. Hence not only do they sport themselves in their own deceits—the foolish ideas engendered in their own minds—but they beguile unstable and unestablished souls. They destroy themselves, but they also bring themselves under the curse of destroying others.
In verse 2 Peter 2:15 their secret motives are unmasked. They have followed the way of Balaam. There is then nothing original about their performances. They follow in a well beaten track first trodden by Balaam of infamous memory, who sold his prophetic gifts for money. He was not the first person to prophesy for hire, for this has always been a custom in idolatrous religions, but he appears to have been the first to offer to prophesy in the name of the
Lord for hire. With Balaam the supreme question was “Will it pay?” If a paying proposition he would prophesy to order—as far as he could. This was terrible madness involving terrible moral degradation. In verse 2 Peter 2:12, notice, the false prophets are on a level with the “natural brute beasts”; in verse 2 Peter 2:15 Balaam is below them. A dumb ass was able to rebuke him.
What then is the secret motive behind the many and various onslaughts of the modern false teachers? It is the same old story. The real drive behind them is in this—IT PAYS.
Generally it pays financially. When years ago the late “Pastor” Russell conducted a great campaign in London, hiring the most expensive halls and advertising on lavish scale, he was reported by a daily paper to have said, that he really did not know what to do with the money that poured in upon him.
It always pays if fame and notoriety is the desired thing. The sensational newspaper always patronizes the man retailing a false novelty. Thoroughgoing modernism is alas! a high road to preferment in ecclesiastical circles.
And when preferred and in high office, what have they to give? Just, nothing. They are “wells without water” and so no spiritual thirst can ever be slaked by them. They are as “clouds carried by a tempest” which deposit little or nothing to refresh the weary earth.
Do they accomplish anything? Yes, alas! they do. They speak “great swelling [or, high-flown] words of vanity” to the ensnaring of many souls. Oh! with what deadly accuracy are the inspired words of Scripture aimed. Certain secular papers have recently been making merry over the amusing medley of scientific jargon used at the recent meetings of the British Association. “Great high-flown words” were in plenty of evidence; and “words of vanity” they were also, wherever they touched upon “the things of God” known by no man “but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). By these vain words they capture some “who have just fled those who walk in error” (N.Tr.), promising them liberty.
Liberty! That word has a very familiar sound. Has not someone said to you in effect.— “Why be enslaved by blind adherence to a Bible which you imagine to be inspired? Why not adopt the enlightened modern view? Treat it as an ordinary book, classical and interesting of course, but of no supernatural authority. Thus you will emancipate your mind from its trammels and begin to move with full liberty in the vast fields of modern speculation.” Oh, how enticing the proposition! How fatally it works amongst well-meaning folk of unsettled minds, just fled from those walking in error and from the gross pollutions of the world, yet though thus reformed not born again. It opens up before them a way, quite high class and scientific, right back into the old corruption from which they had just emerged.
The poor victims of these false teachers, who are thus freshly and finally entangled in the world’s pollution so that their latter end is worse than their beginning, are not truly converted souls, but merely people who through a certain knowledge gained of the Lord are outwardly reformed in their ways. They are consequently likened to the dog and the sow, both unclean animals. Such is dog nature that it has the unpleasant habit of returning to its own vomit. Such is sow nature that however well washed it loves the mire and plunges into it at the first opportunity. The person who may be intellectually enlightened and consequently reformed in outward actions, yet without that fundamental change of nature produced by the new birth, falls an easy victim. The false teacher promises him liberty and by his great high-sounding words of vanity cuts the slight mental leash that held him in restraint, and there he is back again in the old ways of sin, whether vomit—uncleanness generated from within, or mire,—uncleanness from without.
They had a “knowledge of the Lord and Saviour,” they knew “the way of righteousness,” they “escaped from them who live in error,” yet back they went to their own eternal loss. Sad, sad for them, but what pen can portray the judgment that will overtake the false teachers who have encompassed their ruin? In due season it will not slumber, as verse 2 Peter 2:3 states.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany