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Bible Commentaries
2 Peter 2

Caton's Commentary on the Minor EpistlesCaton's Commentary

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When prophecies were made to the world, even in those times there were false prophets. So in your time false teachers will come among you, slyly bringing to and urging upon your attention hurtful heresies heresies that will condemn; going so far as to deny Jesus Christ as Lord, who bought them by his death. These bring upon themselves certain and fast destruction. Many will be persuaded by these false teachers to accept and act upon their teachings. By reason of those who go after these false teachers, the truth will be scandalized. These false teachers being avaricious, by hypocritical speeches they will try to win, so they can thereby make gain of you. To show you that their punishment is certain, I call your attention to God's dealings with angels that sinned, with the wicked in the days of Noah, and the fate of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah: they were all overthrown for unrighteousness. Noah was righteous, and so was Lot. Both of these were saved. God knows how to save the good, while the punishment of the wicked comes upon them. Men that are wicked exhibit their characters by walking after the dictates of fleshly desires. They are presumptuous, depending upon their own powers. They speak against officers in authority. In this angels even never indulged, but these wicked act as beasts that perish. They are spots and blemishes on the body politic. So disposed are they that they can not cease from sin. They beguile unstable souls. Their hearts are set on doing everything that will bring them gain. They are children of the curse, having given up the right way to act. In this respect they are like Balaam, who was anxious to receive pay for a bad act. His action was that of madness, and was reproved by the beast he rode. These wicked are fountains having no water, and clouds that give no rain a cheat. To these the blackness of darkness is reserved as their final portion. They allure by appeals loudly made to the desires of the flesh. They promise liberty, while they themselves are in the veriest bondage. One escaping from all these pollutions through the gospel of Christ, and becoming again entangled, is worse off than if he had never believed. He is like a dog who goes back to his vomit, or a sow once washed to wallow again in mud and mire.

Verse 1

Verse 1. But there were false prophets among the people.

In paying heed to prophets, I meant, of course, true prophets prophets of God. I now to you say that there were among the people of Israel false prophets. While that was true in the past as to prophets, I say to you that there shall be also false teachers among you Christian people, who will stealthily bring to your attention, and insist upon the acceptance thereof by you, heresies that are destructive. A heresy, being a schism, produces parties, and hence divi-sions. They will even go so far in their false teaching as to deny the Lord, that bought them. They will deny that he is God's Son, and that he died for them; that he shed his blood to perfect the scheme of redemption, whereby we are to be saved; that he died for our sins, or that by his stripes we are healed. These false teachers will only bring on them-selves certain and sudden destruction.

Verse 2

Verse 2. And many shall follow their pernicious ways.

As a result of the teaching of the false teachers, how-ever much to be regretted it may be, many will follow them. They will make converts to their false views. Many will follow their lead, and, by these many so following, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ will be scandalized, and held up to scorn by those who can see no difference between the true and the false faith.

Verse 3

Verse 3. And through covetousness.

The false teachers, and those who follow their false teaching, will attempt by feigned words that is, by ficti-tious tales, stories, by falsehoods and fables which they will tell you, having nothing in view but gain to make mer-chandise of your labor and possessions. Be assured that the condemnation of all such will not be delayed. Their destruc-tion is certain. And I will now proceed to give you proofs unmistakable of the truthfulness of my statement as to the certainty of their punishment.

Verse 4

Verse 4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned.

You know that God spared not the angels who rebelled. He subjected them to punishment. They were cast out of heaven and into darkness. They are bound with chains, or "pits of darkness," as the Revised Version has it, and are kept or reserved for judgment. This shows you, as one example, the certainty of punishment that awaits the false teachers and their followers. But I will give you other instances.

Verse 5

Verse 5. But spared not the old world, but saved Noah.

Swift destruction came upon the old world. The flood slew all the wicked, only Noah and his family, who were righteous, being saved therefrom.

Verse 6

Verse 6. And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomor-rah.

These cities were destroyed for the wickedness of the people who lived therein, God giving thereby an example or a warning to all who should subsequently live on the earth, including the false teachers, of the certainty of pun-ishment that awaits the wicked.

Verse 7

Verse 7. And delivered just Lot.

In the destruction of the cities God saved Lot. Keep before your minds that it is the wicked only that are pun-ished. The righteous are always preserved. This is God's way punish the wicked and save the righteous.

Verse 8

Verse 8. For that righteous man.

Lot was vexed. He was distressed every day he lived with the people of those cities by what he saw and heard of their evil deeds. He was righteous, and hence saved. "And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt" ( Gen_19:29 ). Let these examples satisfy you of the certainty of the destruction that awaits the false teachers.

Verse 9

Verse 9. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly.

The examples given show that the Lord knows how to deliver those that love and obey him under every trial.

And to reserve the unjust.

Also that the Lord knows how to punish the unjust, or to hold them in reserve, to be punished at a later period.

Unto the day of judgment.

There is a day appointed the day of judgment. Pun-ishment will then be meted out to all those whom the Lord has reserved therefor.

Verse 10

Verse 10. But chiefly to them that walk after the flesh.

A class of persons are here described minutely, false teachers heretofore mentioned included, and of the punish-ment that awaits them, the inspired penman asserts the certainty. The word "chiefly," indicating a greater punish-ment than others, is not, either in the Syriac or Vulgate, employed. There the word "especially" appears, which is followed by Dr. Macknight. Either indicates certainty and leaves no doubt upon the mind as to any ungodly escaping. As to degrees in pishment, or whether some will be punished more than others, or to a greater extent, I have only this to say : When one is punished by banishment from the presence of God and of his glory forever, I can see in such a state little room in which to discuss the question of degrees. At all events, it is a field I care not to enter, and shall therefore leave, unexplored. No matter about that, we are informed by inspiration that the ungodly shall be punished, and with that class our attention will now be engaged.

Walk after the flesh.

Those that follow and are governed by the passions and appetites, and thus live impure and unholy lives.

Despise government.

Those who recognize no authority either of God or man.

Presumptuous are they, self-willed.

They are audacious. They assume to do after their own wills or wishes, and so strong is this propensity that they have no fear to utter reviling speech against officers in stations of government in the exercise of their legitimate duties.

Verse 11

Verse 11. Whereas angels, which are greater in power.

While the wicked here being described do all the things named without any hesitancy, heavenly messengers, super-ior in power and might, do not exhibit any such disregard or disrespect for authorities ; do not bring a railing accusa-tion against them before the Lord, an example of temperate language which mankind would do well to imitate.

Verse 12

Verse 12. But these, as natural brute beasts.

These wicked ones, here being described, act as if they were irrational like the beasts that are destined to be slaughtered as food for men. So great, indeed, are their irrational and senseless actions that they speak evil of, and in opposition to, things which they do not understand.

Utterly perish in their own corruption.

Nothing can be plainer as to the end of such characters. Their destruction is full and complete.

Verse 13

Verse 13. And shall receive the reward.

Their debauchery, riot and evil conduct in the day-time is considered by them as pleasure. Their destruction is the necessary and legitimate reward for such evil doings.

Spots they are and blemishes.

The apostle presents many figures as applied to the wicked ones. Spots and blemishes he calls them. These, as applied to things of beauty, mar and deface. So there are defacing spots and blemishes on the social fabric.

Sporting themselves with their own deceivings.

When they attend the feasts of the church, they con-vert, as far as they can, these solemn occasions into revelry and jest. False teachers do all these things.

Verse 14

Verse 14. Having eyes full of adultery.

Their vision is lascivious to such an extreme that it is unceasing, and every effort is made by them to lead astray, by temptations to the sensual appetite, those not fully grounded in the faith.

A heart they have exercised with covetous practices.

Beside being lewd, they are excessively grasping, engag-ing in every practice by which they can secure gain to themselves. In short, they are children of the curse, and will heir the curse pronounced by Christ against the wicked: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" ( Mat_25:41 ).

Verse 15

Verse 15. Which have forsaken the right way.

These false teachers have wandered from the strait and narrow way which leads to life.

Following the way of Balaam.

Balaam loved the wages given for wrong-doing. He suffered himself purchased to engage in an evil cause. He placed himself for gain against the Lord and his people. He exhibited in this a madness that was extra-ordinary.

Verse 16

Verse 16. But was rebuked for his iniquity.

God put words in the mouth of the brute he was riding, and he, was thereby forced to attend to the angel that blocked his 'passage.

Verse 17

Verse 17. These are wells without water.

These teachers, although they profess to teach much of profit, in fact have no instruction to impart; they promise much, but the disappointment is great.

Clouds that are carried with a tempest.

Clouds are supposed to contain rain, and, when such appear, descending showers are expected, but the clouds are quickly driven away as by a tornado blast, and none whatever falls upon the parched earth. So with these teach-ers and wicked men, not a spray of enlightenment ever strays from their polluted lips. Dr. Macknight uses such expressive words in relation to these apostolic similes that I here transcribe them: "There being few wells and little rain in the eastern countries, it was a grievous disappoint-ment to a thirsty traveler to come to a well that had no water. The husbandman was equally disappointed to see clouds arise which gave the prospect of rain, but, ending in a tempest, instead of refreshing, destroyed the fruits of the earth. By these comparisons the ostentation, hyprocrisy, levity and perniciousness of false teachers are set forth in the strongest colors."

To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.

In announcing the doom of these apostates, the Holy Spirit seems to struggle with our human vernacular in order to give us a conception of the doom of these wicked ones. Where the Common Version says, "Mist of darkness," the Revised Version, Syriac and Dr. Macknight say : "Blackness of darkness." This is their dreadful doom forever.

Verse 18

Verse 18. For when they speak great swelling words.

The sense is that these wicked ones used words utterly devoid of any knowledge of divine things. Their speech was in great flowing, high-sounding words, claiming an illumi-nation they did not possess ; words of falsehood calculated to allure those by lusts of the flesh and lasciviousness that had theretofore escaped from such practices. They hoped thereby to seduce those who at one time lived with them in the indulgence in all these evils. It was an effort to cause to arise in rebellion passions held under restraint in obe-dience to the precepts of the gospel of Christ an attack led by the enemy of souls against the supposed weakest point of the Christian citadel.

Verse 19

Verse 19. While they promise them liberty.

The promise held out to those sought to be apostatized and drawn from the faith was liberty. This was the promise. Liberty in this, that men possessing appetites are, and of right ought to be, free to indulge them without restraint. These teachers claimed that restraint in this regard was bondage. Those enduring this restraint would be relieved therefrom by following the advice of these teachers. This Promise is made by those who are the veriest slaves. They are under bondage to corruption, which is an implacable tyrant.

For of whom a man is overcome.

This is a legitimate and necessary conclusion. So says the apostle Paul. "His servants ye are to whom you obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteous-ness" ( Rom_6:16 ).

Verse 20

Verse 20. For if, after they have escaped.

By being taught of God, and learning thereby what we must do to become his children, which includes a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ ; in short, have put on Christ, become his subjects, and, by the means so graciously pro-vided for us by a loving Father, have escaped from the world and all its pollutions. Now, in case we become entangled again with the allurements of the world, and are thus overcome and apostatized, what of our condition then? This last state is worse for us than the state from which we escaped at our conversion to Christ. Inspiration has said it, and the God of Christianity knows.

Verse 21

Verse 21. For it had been better.

Such as apostatize would have been better off had they never heard the gospel of Christ, for by their apostasy their sin is made the greater and the chains with which they bind themselves are stronger than they were before. A man once knowing the way of life, and turning from it, sins knowingly and willfully. Before he heard the gospel he was walking in the darkness of ignorance, to whom sym-pathy was to be extended. Such, however, as sin willfully and knowingly, are in a most deplorable and uncertain condition. My soul turns away in a nameless terror from the contemplation of the thought. Says the blessed Master: "That servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes" ( Luk_12:47 ).

Verse 22

Verse 22. But it is happened unto them.

Of the ones who apostasize, the apostle says it hap-pened according to a true proverb of Solomon. ( Pro_26:1-28 : II.) The dog has returned to his vomit again. The compari-son is a striking one. The apostle, not satisfied in giving one comparison to enforce the truth of his declaration, seizes one more, which is also within the knowledge of all. The apostate is likened to a sow which, after she is carefully washed from all impurity, returns to her wallowing in the mire.

The teaching here designed to be enforced by the pen of inspiration is plain, and appears upon the very surface. That, as it is difficult to change the nature of these animals the dog and the sow an equal difficulty will be encoun-tered in changing the wicked dispositions of some men. A continued indulgence in certain vices and a general course of vice finally culminates in the formation of habits as strong as nature; are, in fact, a second nature, and equally as hard to overcome.

Bibliographical Information
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ntc/2-peter-2.html. 1916.
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