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2 Peter 2:1
But there were false prophets also among the people; rather, as in the Revised Version, but there arose false prophets also among the people. The transition is simple and natural. Besides the true prophets mentioned in the last chapter, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, there arose false prophets, men who wore "a rough garment to deceive" (Zechariah 13:4), and assumed without warrant the prophetic character. Such pretenders would commonly prophesy false things; but the word ψευδοπροφῆται seems principally to imply the absence of a Divine mission. By "the people" (λαός) is meant the people of Israel, as in Romans 15:11; Jud Romans 1:5, etc. It is plain from these words that St. Peter, at the end of the last chapter, was speaking of the prophets of the Old Testament. Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies. By the false teachers, again (the word ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι is peculiar to St. Peter), may be meant men whose teaching was false, or men who falsely claimed the teacher's office. St. Peter describes them as such as (οἵτινες) shall bring in damnable heresies. The verb (παριεσάξουσιν) is found only here in the New Testament; the adjective derived from it is used by St. Paul in Galatians 2:4, "false brethren unawares brought in." It means "to bring in by the side of," as if these false teachers brought in their errors by the side of the true doctrine; it implies also the secondary notion of secrecy. Compare St. Jude's use of the verb παρεισέδυσαν, compounded with the same prepositions (Jude 1:4); and notice the difference of tenses—St. Jude using the past where St. Peter looks forward to the future; but St. Peter passes to the present tense in Jude 1:10, and maintains it for the rest of the chapter. We may, perhaps, infer that the false teaching referred to was already beginning to affect the Churches of Asia Minor; but the errors were not so much developed there, the' false teachers had not gained so much influence as it seems they had in the Churches which St. Jude had principally in his thoughts. The literal translation of the words rendered "damnable heresies" is "heresies of destruction," the last word being the same which occurs again at the end of the verse. These heresies destroy the soul; they bring ruin both to those who are led astray and to the false teachers themselves. The word for "heresy"(αἵρεσις), meaning originally "choice," became the name for a party, sect, or school, as in Acts 5:17, "the sect of the Sadducees;" Acts 15:5," the sect of the Pharisees;" Acts 24:5 (in the mouth of Tertullus). "the sect of the Nazarenes;" then, by a natural transition, it came to be used of the opinions held by a sect. The notion of self-will, deliberate separation, led to its being employed generally in a bad sense (see especially Titus 3:10, "A man that is a heretic, (αἱρετικὸς)"). Even denying the Lord that bought them; literally, as in the Revised Version, denying even the Master that bought them. The word for "Master" (δεσπότης) implies that the deniers stand to the Lord in the relation of slaves, bondservants. The Lord had bought them; they were not their own, but his, bought with a price, "not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18; see also the parallel passage Jud 1 Peter 1:4). These words plainly assert the universality of the Lord's redemption. He "tasted death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9), even for those false teachers who denied him. The denial referred to may have been doctrinal or practical; most of the ancient forms of heresy involved some grave error as to the Person of Christ; and the germs of these errors appeared very early in the Church (see 1 John 2:22, 1 John 2:23), denying sometimes the Godhead of our Lord, sometimes the truth of his humanity. But St. Peter may mean the practical denial of Christ evinced in an ungodly and licentious life. The latter form of denial appears most prominent in this chapter; probably the apostle intended to warn his readers against both. It is touching to remember that he had himself denied the Lord, though indeed the price with which our souls were bought had not then been paid; but his denial was at once followed by a deep and true repentance. The Lord's loving look recalled him to himself; his bitter tears proved the sincerity of his contrition. And bring upon themselves swift destruction; literally, bringing. The participial construction unites the two clauses closely; the latter expresses the consequence of the former: they bring heresies of destruction into the Church, and by so doing bring upon themselves swift destruction. The word for "swift" (ταχινός) is used by no other New Testament writer. There is an apparent allusion to this verso in Justin Martyr ('Cum Tryph.,' 82), and the first clause of it is quoted in a homily ascribed to Hippolytus of Portus. Notice St. Peter's habit of repetition, he repeats the word ἀπώλεια three times in Titus 3:1-3; δίκαιος three times in Titus 3:7, Titus 3:8; the verb προσδοκάω three times in 2 Peter 3:12-14, etc.
2 Peter 2:2
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; rather, as in the Revised Version, their lascivious doings; the reading represented by the Authorized Version has very little support (comp. Jud 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 1:8). (For "shall follow" (ἐξακολουθήσουσιν), see note on 2 Peter 1:16.) By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. The heathen were accustomed to charge Christians with immorality; the conduct of these false teachers gave them occasion; they did not distinguish between these licentious heretics and true Christians. The expression, "way of truth," occurs in the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' chapter 5. Christianity is called "the way" several times in the Acts (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, etc.). It is the way of truth, because Christ, who is the Center of his religion, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; because it is the way of life which is founded on the truth.
2 Peter 2:3
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; rather, in covetousness. Covetousness was their besetting sin, the sphere in which they lived. St. Paul warned Titus against false teachers who taught "things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:11; see also 1 Timothy 6:6 and Jud 1 Timothy 1:16). Simon Magus, the first heresiarch, sought to trade in holy things; the like sin seems to have been characteristic of the false teachers of apostolic times. The word translated "feigned" (πλαστοῖς) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; the words of these men were not the expression of their real thoughts and feelings; they were invented, craftily contrived to deceive men, and that for the sake of money. The last words of the clause will admit another sense: "shall gain you," i.e., "shall gain you over to their party;" and this view derives some support from the use of the verb ἐμπορεύεσθαι in the Septuagint Version of Proverbs 3:14. But the verb is often used in classical writers in the sense of making a profit out of people or things, and this meaning seems most suitable here. The false teachers will work hard, as the Pharisees did, to make proselytes; but their real motive is, not the salvation of souls, but their own selfish gain. Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not; literally, for whom the sentence of a long time idleth not. The sentence of judgment is for them, for their condemnation; in the foreknowledge of God it has been pronounced long ago, and ever since it has been drawing near; it doth not tarry (comp. Jud Proverbs 1:4 and 1 Peter 4:17). The word rendered "of a long time" (ἔκπαλαι) occurs only here and 2 Peter 3:5. And their damnation slumbereth not; destruction: it is the word which has been used already twice in 2 Peter 3:1. The verb means literally "to nod," then "to slumber;" it is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in the parable of the virgins (Matthew 25:5).
2 Peter 2:4
For if God spared not the angels that sinned; rather, angels when they sinned ; there is no article. St. Peter is giving proofs of his assertion that the punishment of the ungodly lingereth not. The first is the punishment of angels that sinned. He does not specify the sin, whether rebellion, as in Revelation 12:7; or uncleanness, as apparently in Jud Revelation 1:6, Revelation 1:7, and Genesis 6:4. Formally, there is an anacoluthon here, but in thought we have the apodosis in Genesis 6:9. But cast them down to hell. The Greek word, which is found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures, is ταρταρώσας, "having cast into Tartarus." This use of a word belonging to heathen mythology is very remarkable, and without parallel in the New Testament. Apparently, St. Peter regards Tartarus not as equivalent to Gehenna, for the sinful angels are "reserved unto judgment," but as a place of preliminary detention. Josephus, quoted by Professor Lumby in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' speaks of the oldest heathen gods as fettered in Tartarus, ἐν Ταρτάρῳ δεδεμένους ('Contra Apion,' 2.33). And delivered them into chains of darkness. The Revised Version "pits" represents the reading of the four oldest manuscripts; but the variations in two of them (the Sinaitic and Alexandrine have σειροῖς ζόφοις), and the fact that σειρός seems properly to mean a pit for the storage of corn, throw some doubt upon this reading. The other reading σειραῖς, cords, may possibly have arisen from the parallel passage in Jude 1:6, though the Greek word for "chains" is different there. The chains consist in darkness; the pits are in darkness, Παρέδωκε, delivered, is often used, as Huther remarks, with the implied idea of punishment. It is simpler to connect the chains or pits of darkness with this verb than (as Fronmuller and others) with ταρταρώσας, "having cast them in bonds of darkness into Tartarus" (comp. Wis. 17:2, 16, 17). To be reserved unto judgment; literally, being reserved; but the readings here are very confused. St. Jude says (Jude 1:6) that the sinful angels are reserved "unto the judgment of the great day." Bengel says, "Possunt autem in terra quoque versari mancipia Tartari (Luke 8:31; Ephesians 2:2; etc.) sic ut bello captus etiam extra locum captivitatis potest ambulare." But in the ease of a mystery of which so little has been revealed, we are scarcely justified in assuming the identity of the angels cast into Tartarus with the evil spirits who tempt and harass us on earth.
2 Peter 2:5
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person; rather, as in the Revised Version, the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others. "The eighth" is a common classical idiom (generally with the pronoun αὐτός) for a with seven others." Mark the close parallelism with 1 Peter 3:20, where, as here, the apostle impresses upon his readers the fewness of the saved. A preacher of righteousness. The Old Testament narrative does not directly assert this; but "a just man and perfect," who "walked with God" (Genesis 6:9), must have been a preacher (literally, "herald ") of righteousness to the ungodly among whom he lived. Josephus, in a well-known passage ('Ant.,' 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:1), says that Noah tried to persuade his neighbours to change their mind and their actions for the better. Bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly. The Revised Version renders, when he brought a Flood upon the world. In the Greek there is no article throughout this verse. In 1 Peter 3:1 the ungodly are represented as bringing upon themselves swift destruction; here God brings the punishment upon them. The same Greek verb is used in both places. In one place St. Peter gives the human, in the other the Divine, aspect of the same events (comp. Clement I, 7 and 9).
2 Peter 2:6
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow. The striking word τεφρώσας, turning into ashes, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; and the word for "overthrow" (καταστροφή) only in 2 Timothy 2:14. It is used in the Septuagint Version of Genesis 19:29 of this same judgment. Perhaps "to an overthrow" is a better translation (comp. Luke 17:26-29; Jud Luke 1:7). Making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; rather, having made. The example is to be a lasting warning; literally, an example of those that should live ungodly; i.e., an example of their punishment, their end. In this verse the Vatican Manuscript omits "with an overthrow," and reads "an example of things to come unto the ungodly."
2 Peter 2:7
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; literally, and delivered righteous Lot, who was being worn out (καταπονούμενον; comp. Acts 7:24, the only other place of the New Testament where the word occurs) with the behaviour of the lawless in licentiousness. The word translated "lawless" (ἀθέσμων) is found only in one other place of the New Testament (2 Peter 3:17); but it is near akin to the ἀθεμίτοις ("abominable") of 1 Peter 4:3.
2 Peter 2:8
For that righteous man dwelling among them; literally, for the righteous man. It was through his own choice that he dwelt among the people of Sodom. The recollection of this grave mistake must have added bitterness to the daily distress caused by the sins of his neighbours (Genesis 13:11). In seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. The words, "in seeing and hearing," are best connected with the verb that follows, not with "righteous" according to the Vulgate (though this would be the natural connection, if with the Vatican Manuscript we omit the article), nor with "dwelling among them." The literal translation is, "was tormenting his righteous soul." The sight of lawless deeds and the sound of wicked words were a daily grief to Lot. He distressed himself; he felt the guilt and danger of his neighbours, the dishonour done to God, and his own unhappy choice. St. Peter cannot mean (as OEcumenius and Theophylact suppose) that Lot's affliction was caused by the sustained effort to resist the temptation of falling into the like vices himself. The Greek words for "seeing" and "dwelling among" occur only here in the New Testament.
2 Peter 2:9
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. We have here the apodosis corresponding with the conditional sentence beginning at 2 Peter 2:4. The three examples cited by St. Peter show that the Lord knows (and with the Lord knowledge involves power) how to deliver the righteous and to punish the wicked. The Greek words for "godly" and "unjust" are both without the article. The word rendered "to be punished" (καλαζομένους) is a present participle, not future, and is better rendered, as in the Revised Version, "under punishment." The wicked are already under punishment while awaiting the judgment; the Lord had taught this in the parable of Dives and Lazarus (comp. also Jude 1:6, Jude 1:7, and 2 Peter 2:4 of this chapter). Aristotle makes a distinction between κόλασις and τιμωρία, the first being "chastisement inflicted for the good of those chastised;" the second, "punishment inflicted on the incorrigible for the satisfaction of justice" (see 'Rhet.,' 2 Peter 1:10); but it is doubtful whether this distinction exists in the New Testament (comp. Matthew 25:46). Therefore it seems dangerous to lay much stress on the use of the word κολαζομένους here (comp. Clement, I, 11.).
2 Peter 2:10
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness; literally, in the lust of pollution. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the corresponding verb is found in several places (Titus 1:15; Hebrews 12:15; Jude 1:8). We observe that in this verse St. Peter passes from the future tense to the present. And despise government; rather, lordship (κυριότητος). St. Jude has the same word in Jude 1:8. In Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16 it is used of angelic dignities. Here it seems to stand for all forms of authority. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities; literally, daring, self-willed, they tremble not when speaking evil of glories; or, they fear not glories, blaspheming. The word rendered "daring" (τολμηταί) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. These daring, self-willed men despise all lordship, all glories, whether the glory of Christ ("the excellent glory," 2 Peter 1:17), or the glory of the angels, or the glory of holiness, or the glory of earthly sovereignty. The next verse, however, makes it probable that the glory of the angels was the thought present to St. Peter's mind. It may be that, as some false teachers had inculcated the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18), others had gone to the opposite extreme (comp. Jude 1:8). The Vulgate strangely translates δόξας by sectas.
2 Peter 2:11
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. The conjunction is ὅπου, literally, "where"—they speak evil of glories, "where," i.e., "in which case." The literal rendering of the following words, "angels being greater," makes it probable that the comparison is with the false teachers of the previous verse rather than with the "glories." The false teachers rail at glories, where angels, though greater than they, bring not a railing judgment against those glories. It seems certain that the words "against them" (κατ αὐτῶν) must refer to the "glories," and cannot mean, according to the Vulgate, adversum se. Men rail at these glories; but the elect angels, when they are commissioned to proclaim or inflict the just judgment (for κρίσις is "judgment," not" accusation") of God upon the angels that sinned, the fallen glories, do not rail; they remember what those lost spirits once were, and speak solemnly and sorrowfully, not in coarse, violent language. The apostle may be alluding to Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:2, but the resemblance to Jude 1:8, Jude 1:9 is so dose that this last passage must have been in his thoughts, even if he is not directly referring to the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil. Luther's interpretation (adopted by Fronmuller and others), that the wicked angels are not able to bear the judgment of God upon their blasphemy, cannot be extracted from the words. The Alexandrine Manuscript omits "before the Lord;" but these words are well supported. The angels of judgment remember that they are in the presence of God, and perform their solemn duty with godly fear.
2 Peter 2:12
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. The order of the words in the best manuscripts favours the translation of the Revised Version, But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed. The word rendered "mere animals" is literally "natural" (φυσικά); comp. Jud 2 Peter 1:10, "what they know naturally (φυσικῶς) as brute beasts." Speak evil of the things that they understand not; literally, as in the Revised Version, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant. (For the construction, see Wirier, 3:66. 5, at the end.) The context and the parallel passage in St. Jude show that the δόξαι, the glories, are the things which the false teachers understand not and at which they rail. Good angels do not pronounce a railing judgment against angels that sinned. These men, knowing nothing of the angelic sphere of existence, rail at the elect and the fallen angels alike, lien should speak with awe of the sin of the angels; jesting on such subjects is unbecoming and dangerous. And shall utterly perish in their own corruption. The best manuscripts read here καί φθαρήσονται "shall also be destroyed in their own corruption." It seems better to take φθορά in the sense of "corruption" here, as in 2 Peter 1:4, and to suppose that St. Peter is intentionally playing on the double sense of the noun and its cognate verb than, with Huther, to refer the pronoun αὐτῶν, "their own," to the ἄλογα ζῶα, and to understand St. Peter as meaning that the false teachers, who act like irrational animals, shall be destroyed with the destruction of irrational animals.
2 Peter 2:13
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness. The two most ancient manuscripts read here, instead of κομιούμενοι ἀδικούμενοι. This reading is adopted by the Revised Version in the translation, "suffering wrong as the hire of wrongdoing." But the other reading is well supported, and gives a better sense, "receiving, as they shall, the reward of unrighteousness." Balaam loved the reward of unrighteousness in this world (2 Peter 2:15); the false teachers shall receive its final reward in the world to come. Whichever reading is preferred, this clause is best taken with the preceding verse. As they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime; literally, counting the revel in daytime a pleasure. St. Peter has hitherto spoken of the insubordination and irreverence of the false teachers; he now goes on to condemn their sensuality. The words ἐν ἠμέρα cannot, with some ancient interpreters, be taken as equivalent to μαθ ̓ ἡμέραν, daily (Luke 16:19). Many commentators, as Huther and Alford, translate "delicate living for a day"—enjoyment which is temporal and short-lived. But when we compare 1 Thessalonians 5:7, "They that are drunken are drunken in the night," and St. Peter's own words in Acts 2:15, it seems more probable that the apostle means to describe these false teachers as worse than ordinary men of pleasure. They reserve the night for their feasting; these men spend the day in luxury. The word τρυφή means "luxurious or delicate living" rather than "riot." Spots they are and blemishes. (For σπίλοι, spots, St. Jude has σπιλάδες, sunken rocks.) The word for "blemishes" (μῶμοι) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. But comp. 1 Peter 1:19, where the Lord Jesus is described as "a Lamb without blemish and without spot (ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου)." The Church should be like her Lord, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27); but these men are spots and blemishes on her beauty. Sporting themselves with their own deceivings; literally, reveling in their deceivings. The word for "reveling" (ἐντρυφῶντες) corresponds with τρυφή, used just above. The manuscripts vary between ἀπάταις, deceivings, and ἀγάπαις, loves, love-feasts. The former reading seems the best-supported here, and the latter in the parallel passage of St. Jude (Jude 1:12). It is possible that the paronomasia may be intentional (compare the σπίλοι of St. Peter and the σπιλάδες of St. Jude). St. Peter will not use the honourable name for the banquets which these men disgrace by their excesses. He calls them ἀπάτας, not ἀγάπας—deceits, not love-feasts. There is no love in the hearts of these men. Their love-feasts are hypocrisies, deceits; they try to deceive men, but they deceive not God. While they feast with you. The Greek word συνευωχούμενοι occurs elsewhere only in Jud Jude 1:12. The false teachers joined in the love-feasts, but made them the occasion of self-indulgence. Compare the similar conduct of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
2 Peter 2:14
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; literally, of an adulteress. Compare our Lord's words in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:28), which may have been in St. Peter's thoughts. For the second clause, comp. 1 Peter 4:1, "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." Beguiling unstable souls; rather, enticing. The word δελεάζοντες, from δέλεαρ, a bait, belongs to the art of the fowler or fisherman, and would naturally occur to St. Peter's mind. He uses it again in 1 Peter 4:18 of this chapter (comp. also James 1:14). The word for "unstable" (ἀστηρίκτους) occurs only here and in 2 Peter 3:16. It is a word of peculiar significance in the mouth of St. Peter, conscious, as he must have been, of his own want of stability in times past. He would remember also the charge once given to him, "When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; rather, trained in covetousness, according to the reading of the best manuscripts, πλεονεξίας. This is the third vice laid to the charge of the false teachers. They had practiced it so long that their very heart was trained in the habitual pursuit of gain by all unrighteous means. Cursed children; rather, children of curse. Like "the son of perdition," "children of wrath," "children of disobedience," "son of Belial," etc.
2 Peter 2:15
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray; literally, forsaking (or having forsaken; there are two slightly differing readings, both well supported) the right way, they went astray. The false teachers in St. Peter's time were like Elymas the sorcerer, whom St. Paul accused of perverting "the right ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10; comp. also Acts 13:2 of this chapter). In the 'Shepherd of Hermas' occurs what may be an echo of this verse: "Who … have forsaken their true way" (Vis., 2 Peter 3:7. 2 Peter 3:1). Following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor. The word rendered "following" (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is found also in 2 Peter 1:16 and 2 Peter 2:2 of this Epistle, but nowhere else in the New Testament; it means "to follow out to the end." Comp. Numbers 22:32, where the angel of the Lord says of Balaam, "Thy way is perverse before me." The form "Bosor," instead of "Beor," arose probably from a peculiar (perhaps Galilaean) pronunciation of the guttural ע in רוֹעבְּ. Thus we, perhaps, have here an undesigned coincidence, a slight confirmation of St. Peter's authorship: he was a Galilaean, and his speech betrayed him (Matthew 26:73); one characteristic of the Galilaean dialect was a mispronunciation of the gutturals. But some commentators see in the resemblance of the form "Bosor" to the Hebrew רשָׂבָּ, flesh, an allusion to those sins of the flesh into which Balaam allured the Israelites. Compare the Jewish use of such names as Ishbosheth in derision for Eshbaal ("the man of shame" for "the man of Baal"), and Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21) for Jerubbaal. The references to Balaam here, in St. Jude, the Book of the Revelation, and 1 Corinthians 10:8, show that his history had made a great impression on the mind of thoughtful Christians. St. John connects his name with the Nicolaitanes in Revelation 2:15, much as St. Peter here connects it with the false teachers of his time. Some, again, see in the etymology of the word "Nicolaitane" an allusion to that of "Balaam," as if the Nicolaitanes were followers of Balaam. There is another explanation in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' that the word "Bosor" is an Aramaic form, and that "the form possibly became familiar to St. Peter during his residence at Babylon, and suggests the probability that Aramaic traditions were still current respecting Balaam at the Christian era, and on the banks of the Euphrates" (additional note on Numbers 22:5). But the two oldest manuscripts read "Beer" here. Who loved the wages of unrighteousness (comp. Revelation 2:13, and also St. Peter's words in Acts 1:18). Balaam is not definitely accused of covetousness in the Old Testament narrative; but his conduct can be explained by no other motive.
2 Peter 2:16
But was rebuked for his iniquity; literally, but had a rebuke for his own transgression. The word for "rebuke" (ἔλεγξιν) Occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The guilt of offering the wages of unrighteousness rested with Balak; Balaam's own transgression lay in his readiness to accept them—in his willingness to break the law of God by cursing, for filthy lucre's sake, those whom God had not cursed. The dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet. The word for "ass" is literally "beast of burden" (ὑποζύγιον, as in Matthew 21:5). "Dumb" is literally "without voice;" naturally without voice, it spake with the voice of man. The word ἐκώλυσεν, rendered "forbade," is rather "checked," or "stayed." The word for "madness" (παραφρονίαν) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The ass checked the prophet's folly by her shrinking from the angel, and by the miracle that followed; the angel, while permitting Balaam to expose himself to the danger into which he had fallen by tempting the Lord, forbade any deviation from the word to be put into his mouth by God. Balaam obeyed in the letter; but afterwards the madness which had been checked for the moment led him into deadly sin (Numbers 31:16). We observe that St. Peter assumes the truthfulness of the narrative in the Book of Numbers (see Mr. Clark's note in the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Numbers 22:28).
2 Peter 2:17
These are wells without water. St. Peter has spoken of the vices of the false teachers; he goes on to describe the unprofitableness of their teaching. They are like wells without water; they deceive men with a promise which they do not fulfill. In Jud 2 Peter 1:12 there is a slight difference—"clouds without water" (comp. Jeremiah 2:13). Clouds that are carried with a tempest; better, mists driven by a tempest. The best manuscripts have ὁμίχλαι, mists, instead of νεφέλαι, clouds; they are driven along by the tempest; they give no water to the thirsty land, but only bring darkness and obscurity. The Greek word for "tempest" (λαῖλαψ) is used by St. Mark and St. Lu in their account of the tempest on the Sea of Galilee. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for over; rather, as in the Revised Version, the blackness of darkness. The words are the same as those of Jud Mark 1:13. The words "for ever" are omitted in the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts; it is possible that they may have been inserted from the parallel passage in St. Jude; but they are well supported here.
2 Peter 2:18
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity; literally, for speaking. "Great swelling words" is expressed by one word in the Greek, ὑπέρογκα, St. Jude has the same word in Jude 1:16; it is used in the classical writers of great bulk of any kind, literal or figurative. The genitive is descriptive—the words are swelling, high-sounding; but they are only words, vain and meaningless; they have nothing but emptiness behind them. They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness; rather, as in the Revised Version, they entice (as in Jude 1:14) in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness. The preposition "in" denotes the sphere in which these men live, their condition, habits of life. The dative ἀσελγείαις, literally "by lasciviousnesses," that is, by acts of lasciviousness, is the dative of the instrument; it states the means by which they entice men. Those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. The Authorized Version follows the T.R., τοὺς ὄντως ἀποφυγόντας; but most of the best manuscripts have τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας. This last reading gives a better sense, "Those who are just escaping." The adverb ὀλίγως may be understood of time, or, perhaps better, of measure—"escaping by a little, a little way." Those who were "clean escaped "would not be so easily enticed by the false teachers. These are only beginning to escape; they have heard the word with joy, but have no root in themselves; they put their hand to the plough, but they look back. They "that live in error" are the heathen; the unhappy men who are led astray by the false teachers are just escaping from the heathen and from their mode of life. It is possible to understand these last words as a coordinate clause, a further description of those who are just escaping. The false teachers entice "those who are just escaping, those who live in error." But the common rendering seems better. The verb translated "live" (ἀναστρεφομένους) is a favourite word with St. Peter (see 1 Peter 1:15, 1Pe 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:2, 1 Peter 3:16).
2 Peter 2:19
While they promise them liberty; literally, promising. The words cohere closely with the preceding clause. Liberty was the subject of their great swelling words of vanity; they talked loudly, made a great boast, about liberty. Perhaps they were wresting to their own destruction the teaching of St. Paul concerning Christian liberty. St. Paul had spoken of the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21); he had again and again asserted the liberty of Christians in things indifferent (see 2Co 3:17; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 10:23, etc.). But he had insisted on the paramount duty of giving no offence (1 Corinthians 8:13, etc.), and had earnestly cautioned his converts to "use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh." There were false teachers who maintained that the true Gnostic was free from moral restraints, in fact, that liberty meant libertinism, liberty to sin. They themselves are the servants of corruption. The construction is still participial, "being" (ὑπάρχοντες) being from the beginning servants of corruption. Those who talked about liberty were themselves all the time the bondservants, the slaves, of corruption. The word rendered "corruption" (φθορά) includes the sense of "destruction," as in 2 Peter 2:12 and 2 Peter 1:4 (comp. Romans 8:21). For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. "Of whom," or "by whatever;" by Satan, the personal tempter, or by sin, the innate tendency; the Greek word will bear either meaning. Some good manuscripts add "also," which strengthens the assertion; "is he also brought in bondage." St. Peter's teaching corresponds exactly with that of St. Paul in Romans 6:16. There is a very close parallel to this clause in the 'Clementine Recognitions' (Romans 5:12; quoted by Dr. Salmon, in his 'Historical Introduction to the Books of the New Testament'): "unusquisque illius fit servus cui se ipse subjecerit."
2 Peter 2:20
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world; literally, for if, having escaped (ἀποφυγόντες). Is St. Peter in this verse still speaking of the false teachers, or of those whom they had enticed (2 Peter 2:18)? Bengel, Fronmuller, and others take the latter view, thinking that the ἀποφυγόντες ("those having escaped") of this verse must be the same with the ἀποφεύγοντας or ἀποφυγόντας ("those who are escaping," or "those having escaped") of 2 Peter 2:18. But it is far more natural to understand St, Peter as continuing his description of the false teachers. The conjunction "for" connects the clause closely with that immediately preceding, and suggests that St. Peter is explaining the term "bondservants or slaves" applied to the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:19; the repetition of the word "overcome" also seems to imply that the subjects of yore. 20 and 19 are the same. The word for" pollutions" (μιάσματα) occurs only here. In 'Hermas' (Vis., 4:3, 2) there occurs what may be a reminiscence of this verse: "Ye who have escaped this world." Through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Several of the most ancient manuscripts read, "our Lord and Saviour." The word rendered "knowledge" is ἐπίγνωσις, full knowledge. The preposition is ἐν. The full, personal knowledge of the Saviour is the sphere in which the Christian lives; while he abides in that knowledge grace and peace are multiplied unto him, and he is enabled to escape the pollutions of the world. The apostle warns us here that some of those who once enjoyed the blessedness of that sacred knowledge have been entangled in sin and have fallen from grace. They are again entangled therein, and overcome. The first clause is participial; the connection seems to be, "If, having escaped … but being again entangled they are overcome." The word "entangled" (ἐμπλακέντες) suggests the figure of fishes entangled in the meshes of a net, and seems to point back to the δελεάζουσιν ("entice") of 2 Peter 2:18 and 2 Peter 2:14; they entice others, but they are entangled themselves, and become captives and slaves to the pollutions of the world from which they had once escaped. The latter end is worse with them than the beginning; rather, as in the Revised Version, the last state is become worse with them than the first. This is a distinct quotation of our Lord's words in Matthew 12:45 and Luke 11:26. The evil spirit had been cast out from these men; for a time they had lived in the full knowledge of Christ; but now the evil spirit had returned, and had brought with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself. This spontaneous adoption of our Lord's words without marks of quotation is not like the work of a forger.
2 Peter 2:21
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness; better, as in the Revised Version, for it were better. (For this use of the imperfect indicative, see Winer, 3:41, 2, a.) The verb ἐπεγνωκέκαι, "to have known," here, and the participle ἐπιγνοῦσιν, "after they have known," in the next clause, correspond with the noun ἐπίγνωσις of the preceding, and, like that, imply that these unhappy men once had the full knowledge of Christ. (For "the way, of righteousness," compare "the way of truth" in 2 Peter 2:2, and note there.) Than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. The manuscripts exhibit some slight variations here: the Sinaitic and Alexandrine give "to turn back." By "the holy commandment'' St. Peter means the whole moral Law, which the Lord enforced and widened in his sermon on the mount; from this the false teachers turned away. For the word "delivered" (παραδοθείσης), comp. Jud 2 Peter 1:3. Like the corresponding word παράδοσις, tradition (2 Thessalonians 3:6), it implies the oral transmission of Christian teaching in the first ages (comp. also 1 Peter 1:18).
2 Peter 2:22
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The conjunction "but" is omitted in the best manuscripts. The literal translation is, "There hath happened unto them that of the true proverb (τὸ τῆς παροιμίας);" comp. Matthew 21:21, τὸ τῆς συκῆς. The dog is turned to his own vomit again. The construction is participial; literally, a dog having turned. See Wirier (3:45, 6, b), who says that in such proverbial expressions there is no reason for changing the participle into a finite verb: "They are spoken δεικτικῶς as it were, with reference to a case actually observed." St. Peter may be quoting Proverbs 26:11; but his words are very different from the Septuagint Version of that passage; perhaps it is more probable that the expression had become proverbial, and that the apostle is referring to a form of it in common use with his readers; like that which follows, which is not in the Book of Proverbs. And the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; literally, the sow that had washed to her wallowing; or, according to some ancient manuscripts, "her wallowing-place." St. Peter compares the lives of the false teachers to the habits of those animals which were regarded as unclean, and were most despised by the Jews (compare our Lord's words in Matthew 7:6). The words ἐξέραμα, vomit; κυλισμός, wallowing; and βόρβορος, mire, are not found elsewhere in the New Testament.
Warning against false teachers.
I. THE NEED OF WATCHFULNESS.
1. There must be false teachers. There had been false prophets in Israel, like Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, who flattered Ahab and lured him to his death. There was a traitor among the chosen twelve. "In the visible Church the evil are ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and sacraments." The Lord himself had said that it would be so. "Beware of false prophets," he had said in his sermon on the mount; the apostle echoes the Master's words. It seems very sad that there should be the taint of evil even in the chief places of the Church, that ungodly men should assume the character of teachers, and abuse the form of religion for their selfish and wicked ends. The divisions of the Church, the strange diversities of opinion among Christians, seem a great hindrance to the progress of the gospel, and furnish to some an excuse for unbelief. But when we remember Judas Iscariot, we feel that the Church must be always liable to this great misfortune; if in its very infancy, in the very presence of the incarnate Saviour, one whom he had chosen could betray his Lord for money, it is not to be expected that all those who serve in the ministry of the Church should be pure and holy. False teaching, too, made its appearance very early in the history of the Church. We soon meet with the name of the first heresiarch, Simon Magus; he was one of the converts of Philip the deacon at Samaria, one of the first candidates for confirmation. The existence of false teaching is a great trial of our faith; but, like other trials, it is overruled for good to those who in sincerity seek to know the truth.
2. The character of their teaching. All false doctrine is pernicious. The ancient forms of heresy stood in direct opposition to the great truths of Christianity: they denied the distinction of Persons in the one God, or the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, or the truth of his manhood, or the reality of his precious death; they separated Jesus from the Christ, and the God of Christians from the God of the Old Testament; while others, as apparently the Nicolaitanes of the Revelation, indulged in licentious practices, and maintained that the mind might be pure, though the body was defiled. These and such like heresies were heresies of destruction; they led to the spiritual destruction both of the teachers and the taught; they were privily brought in, set alongside of the truths of the gospel, and so corrupted the gospel of Christ, and deprived it of its saving power. For these false teachers denied the Master that bought them, some by rejecting either his Divinity or his humanity, or the truth of his atonement, some by the practical denial of a licentious life. He had bought them to be his own: they were redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ; and they denied the Master that bought them with that stupendous price. Alas! we have all at some time and in some sense denied him by spiritual sloth and actual sin; we knew that he died that we should die unto sin, and rose again that we should rise to newness of life; and knowing this, we have sinned again and again, yielding ourselves to be servants of sin rather than of Christ. St. Peter himself had thrice denied the Lord; confident in his own steadfastness, he had maintained that he at least would be faithful even unto death; but his courage failed him in the hour of temptation. He must have remembered his own great sin when he wrote these words. He repented; the bitter tears, the holy life that followed, proved the sincerity of his repentance. May we feel the power of the Lord's loving look fixed on us, and be led, like Peter, to repentance. These false teachers were persisting in their willfulness, and bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
3. The sad results of it. They will not be without followers; many will be drawn away from the truth, and will follow these false teachers this way and that, to strange heresies or to licentiousness of life. Men hanker after novelty; they dislike strictness of life; they are easily led to embrace systems which offer some new phase of error, or permit laxity of morals. And thus the way of truth is evil spoken of. Men rail at Christianity because Christians are split up into so many sects and schools; they speak against religion because so many of its professors live unworthy lives. It was so in the early days of the Church; it is so still. The evil lives of professing Christians give occasion to much scoffing and blasphemy at home; while abroad the progress of the gospel in heathen countries is sadly checked by the same unhappy cause.
4. The motive of the false teachers. They do not care for the souls of men; they want their money. Their words are fair, but they do not spring out of strong conviction; they are carefully thought out, cunningly devised to attract attention and to ensnare men. And so they make a gain of their followers, reversing St. Paul's practice, "I seek not yours, but you." For they care nothing for the flock, but only for their own sordid gain. Very terrible is the guilt of those unhappy men who seek the ministry with such miserable objects. Their teaching is but hollow hypocrisy, their whole life is a falsehood. Thus to deal with sacred things is awful exceedingly.
5. Their damager. God's sentence of condemnation is already gone out against them; it idleth not; it is active and energetic. They have brought in heresies of destruction, doing what they could to destroy the souls of men. But the Lord most holy gave himself to die for those precious souls. These false teachers are doing what they can to frustrate the grace of God, to slay the souls for whom the Lord endured the cross. His wrath, except they repent, must come upon them to the uttermost; that utter destruction which they are bringing upon themselves, slumbereth not; it will fall upon them suddenly and consume them in a moment. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
II. GOD'S WRATH AGAINST THE FALSE TEACHERS: EXAMPLES OF HIS AWFUL JUDGMENTS.
1. The judgment of the angels that sinned. Even angels sinned; so strange and awful is the mystery of evil. We must not be surprised that there are sinful men in the visible Church, sometimes, alas! in its highest offices, when we read that there was sin in heaven, that angels of God sinned against their King. The power of evil must be very terrible, wide-reaching, and alluring, if it could draw angels from their allegiance to the Creator. What need have we men to watch and pray, if even angels fell from the grace of God! St. Peter bids us remember their punishment. God spared them not; he is of purer eyes than to behold evil; the sinful cannot abide in his presence. He cast out even angels when they sinned; Tartarus, not heaven, was henceforth their fitting abode; he delivered them to chains of darkness. Holy Scripture gives us no details concerning the sin of the angels or its punishment. We do not know the measure of restraint under which they are now kept; we do not know whether this description applies to all angels who sinned, or only to some. Those evil angels of whom St. Peter is here speaking are under some restraint and suffering some punishment; and they are reserved for the judgment of the great day. Their fall is cited for our warning; if God spared not evil angels, he will not spare evil men.
2. The judgment of the antediluvians. Satan, the prince of the devils, brought sin into the world; it spread with fearful rapidity, all flesh corrupted his way upon the earth. God had created man after his own image; but now the wickedness of man was great, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually—an awful picture of the corrupting power of sin. The fixed immutable laws of the Divine government require the punishment of sin. God brought the Flood upon the world of the ungodly. But in wrath he remembered mercy; he guarded Noah, the just man who walked with God, the preacher of righteousness. Noah had proclaimed the blessings of righteousness, the misery of sin; the ark itself had been a silent preacher during the many years which elapsed while it was being built; the long labour showed the faith of Noah, and proved that his preaching came from deep conviction. His neighbours would not listen; but his preaching, though it saved not them, returned into his own bosom: God knoweth how to deliver the godly. Only eight souls were saved in that tremendous visitation. Let us take warning and fear,
3. The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. "The Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." That tremendous overthrow is a solemn warning to the ungodly of all time. God will by no means spare the guilty; if men will pollute God's earth and their own bodies by sin and uncleanness, the heavy wrath of God must sooner or later sweep them into utter ruin. But even that frightful catastrophe showed how precious the souls of the righteous are in the sight of God. Had there been ten such in that wicked city, he would have spared it for the ten's sake. How little the rulers of the earth think that the course of this world is ordered for the sake of the faithful; that empires are saved from ruin, and wars averted, for the salvation of the few chosen souls! Two angels were sent to save the one righteous man in the cities of the plain; they laid hold upon his hand while he lingered, and brought him out with wife and daughters almost against his will. As now there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, so then two holy angels rescued the one servant of God. The Lord knoweth them that are his; he knows them all and each—each individual soul that believes and repents. Lot was not wholly blameless; he had tempted God by exposing himself to temptation; God had not led him there. He saw that the plain of' Jordan was well watered everywhere, "even as the garden of the Lord;" he did not consider that "the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." The children of light ought to be wiser than this; they ought to regard their spiritual interest as far more momentous than their temporal; but alas! the error of Lot is common still. He soon found how grievous his mistake had been. He preserved his integrity; he was saved, yet so as by fire. He passed through a fiery trial of distress and persecution; he lived in the midst of licentiousness and uncleanness; day by day evil sights were present to his eyes, evil sounds polluted his ears; he saw nothing but sin, he heard nothing but filthiness and blasphemy. He tortured his righteous soul with their unlawful deeds; he saw the dishonour done to God; he knew something of the tremendous condemnation that must engulf those ungodly men; his whole soul revolted from the vice and filth among which he lived. He knew that his own act had brought him to Sodom, and he tortured his soul day by day in repentance, we may be sure, for his thoughtless and worldly choice, in anxious dread of coming retribution, in bitter sorrow for the awful danger of those willful sinners, and for their outrages against the holy Law of God; he was crushed down, worn out with their wicked behaviour and abominable licentiousness. He had greatly erred; but this sorrow of heart, this self-torture, showed that he was sincerely penitent, that he was not corrupted by the fearful wickedness which surrounded him. And the Lord delivered him.
4. What these examples prove. God's love and God's justice.
(1) He careth for the righteous. He knows them; he knows how to deliver them. He delivered Lot first from the temptations which surrounded him, then from the ruin which overwhelmed the wicked. So now he bids us pray," Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." He can save us from being exposed to temptation, if he knows that the temptation is too great for us; he can deliver us out of the midst of temptation, however strong and overwhelming that temptation may be. We may be set amongst ungodly men, we may have nothing but evil examples all around us; we may seem left alone, like Elijah of old, in a tumult of corruption and rebellion. But" the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers;" he can keep his people safe; he can deliver them. Only let them keep themselves pure, and try by his grace to lead a godly life in an ungodly world.
(2) He will punish the unrighteous. The day of judgment must come; then shall the King say to the wicked, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels." Even now the angels that sinned are in Tartarus, in chains of darkness; the men of Sodom and Gomorrah suffer the punishment of eternal fire (Jud Revelation 1:7). Whether that punishment is in some cases corrective (as the word κόλασις would imply in the language of the Greek philosophers (see note on verse 9); whether there is a place for repentance in "that prison" where those who once were disobedient are now confined;—this is one of those secret things which belong unto the Lord our God. Holy Scripture seems here and there to give us some gleams of a possible restoration. We may be very thankful for those gracious hints, and cherish for others the hope which they suggest. But we must not be presumptuous; the danger is tremendous. That aeonian fire, even if it be corrective, has a very fearful meaning; and beyond that fire lies the awful day of judgment, for which the souls of the ungodly are now kept in that mysterious" prison "of which so little is revealed.
1. The Lord bought us; we are his. It is awful guilt to deny him who ransomed us with his most precious blood.
2. It is a fearful sacrilege for an ungodly man to intrude himself into the sacred ministry for the sake of gain.
3. There must be false teachers in the Church. "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God."
4. God's justice will surely overtake all who sin, whether angels or men.
5. But God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked; he cares for every righteous soul.
6. Learn from the case of Lot that worldliness must lead to suffering in this world, if not in the world to come.
Description of the false teachers.
I. THEIR PRESUMPTION.
1. They despise government. Living an evil life, they will not endure restraint of any kind. Self-willed and daring, they despise every form of authority, and speak evil of those who are better, or nobler, or loftier than themselves. Reverence is an important element in personal religion. Reverence for God inclines men to obey those who by God's providence are set over them; especially it leads them to respect the beauty of holiness which comes from God, to speak with due reverence of that holiness wherever it is manifested—whether in saints living or departed, or in the angels of God in heaven.
2. Contrast between their conduct and that of the elect angels. God's holy angels are very high in power and might, but they do not rail even at the evil. It is their appointed duty to pronounce the sentence of God against the angels that sinned; they do it solemnly and sadly. These presumptuous men rail at the things which they understand not—both at the holy angels and at the fallen angels. It is not good to rail even at these last. Fools make a mock at sin; and the sin of the angels, as it is most mysterious, so it is also most awful. Men often talk lightly and idly about the devil and his wiles. Holy Scripture teaches us a very different lesson. We are engaged in a lifelong struggle against him. The conflict is deadly, awful; its issues are most momentous—life or death, heaven or hell. The soldiers of the cross must be in earnest, for they "wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness." To talk lightly of the enemy, to jest about matters so tremendous, is not only unseemly; it is dangerous. It puts men off their guard, and exposes them to the insidious assaults of the tempter. Thus these wicked men, of whom St. Peter writes, talked wildly and presumptuously about things above their comprehension. They behaved like irrational creatures in the presence of great peril, and their end must be destruction. This is the due reward of their unrighteousness, and this they shall receive. They had counted on far other rewards; but the master to whom they had sold themselves is a liar. He cheats his wretched slaves; he lures them to the forbidden fruit. It seems pleasant to the eye and good for food, but it proves to be a deadly poison (see reading adopted by the Revised Version).
II. THEIR SENSUALITY.
1. Their gluttony and drunkenness. These men loved luxurious living. They were worse than their heathen neighbours. The heathen could wait for the night, the usual time for banquetings. They began their revelry early; they gave the business hours of the day (comp. Horace, 'Odes,' I. Rev 1:20, "Partem solido demere de die") to self-indulgence. They joined, it seems, in the love-feasts of the Christians, but their love was only a pretence. As far as they were concerned, the love-feasts were but hollow hypocrisies, occasions for excess. They were spots and blemishes on the assemblies of the godly. Christians must imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish and without spot. They must be strictly temperate in all things; for temperance is one of the blessed fruits of the Spirit, while drunkenness is one of those works of the flesh which destroy the soul.
2. Their impurity. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches his followers to be pure in heart. These men indulged openly in vice. Some of their successors even taught that, as the sea is not polluted by the impurities which it receives, so the true Gnostic might take his fill of sensual pleasure and yet not be defiled. It was no great thing, some of them said, to abstain from lust if it had not been tasted; the triumph was to live in sensual enjoyments, and yet to keep the mind untainted by the defilement of the body. The holy apostle sternly condemns this horrible heresy. These men, he says, are enticing souls to ruin. They are fishers of men, but not with the gospel net; they hide their deadly hook with an alluring bait. But the end of these things is death; for impurity is deadly sin in the sight of God. The body of the Christian is a temple of God the Holy Ghost; and "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy."
III. THEIR COVETOUSNESS.
1. Their example. Not Christ the Lord, not his holy apostles, who could say, as St. Peter once said, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee;" but Balaam the son of Beer—that unhappy man who "heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High," and yet loved the wages of unrighteousness; who was a prophet, and yet mad and foolish; who could pray, "May I die the death of the righteous," and yet tried, and in some measure succeeded, to entice the people of God to deadly sin, anti himself perished miserably among the enemies of the Lord. His guilt was awful exceedingly. He sought to destroy souls for the sake of his own wretched gain. So it was with these false teachers. The love of money, the root of all evil, had taken possession of their heart; they shrank from no sin, if only they might gratify that tyrant passion.
2. The result. They became trained in covetousness. They were like athletes, practiced wrestlers; but the prize which was always before their eyes was, not the crown of glory that fadeth not away, but those poor earthly treasures which fall away from the dying man, and leave the unhappy soul desolate in tile hour of its utmost need. For this prize, the reward of unrighteousness, they sought, like Balaam, to lure souls to ruin. Therefore were they children of curse; for the souls of men are very precious in the sight of God, and his awful curse must light upon the heads of those wicked men—all the more intensely wicked if, like Balaam, they hold sacred offices—who cause Christ's little ones to stumble and fall, and destroy the souls for whom the Lord Jesus died.
IV. THEIR TEACHING
1. It is vain. They are wells without water. God is the Fountain of living waters. True believers become, in a secondary sense, fountains also. The water that he giveth is in them a well of water springing up unto eternal life. These men exhibit the appearance of wells; they profess to be teachers, but there is no living water in them. They have none themselves; they cannot give it to others. They are like clouds that promise rain, but are driven away by the wind, and fail to satisfy the thirsty land. They speak great swelling words, but they are words of vanity, empty and profitless, not like the words of eternal life which the Lord Jesus hath; not like the word of reconciliation which he hath committed to his faithful disciples.
2. It is dangerous. For those high-sounding phrases cover an evil life. They gather followers round them by means of their specious eloquence, and then entice them to destruction by wicked example. They bait their hook with their own licentious practices, and sometimes, alas! succeed in destroying souls that were just escaping from evil influences. They promise them liberty, but the liberty of which they boast is not that liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free—the liberty which recognizes the freedom of the Christian within the sphere of things indifferent, but even within that sphere carefully avoids giving offence to the consciences of others, and sensitively shrinks even from the appearance of evil. Their liberty is libertinism. It is freedom from moral restraints; it is a revolt against the holy Law of God; it is a lie, for it contradicts both the moral instincts of human nature and the truth of God. It is not liberty; for those only are free indeed whom the Son of God makes free in that service which is perfect freedom. This false liberty is really slavery, bondage to sin.
V. THEIR MISERABLE CONDITION.
1. They are slaves. They talk loudly about liberty, but they are slaves themselves. They have yielded themselves up to the evil one; he has corrupted their whole nature, and uses them to corrupt others. They are slaves of corruption, overcome by it, and brought into bondage to it. Vice allures men at first. It offers a deceitful pleasure; it makes the restraints of virtue seem irksome; it presents a show of freedom. It entices men; then it ensnares them. Now and then they offer a feeble resistance: it draws its net tighter and closer; their struggles become continually fainter; it holds them secure; they are captive. They find out, when it is too late, the deceitfulness of sin. The false pleasure becomes real misery. They feel it, but their strength is gone. They arc overcome; they are in bondage from which they cannot escape. Such is the pretended freedom of vicious men. Only those whom the truth makes free are free indeed.
2. Perhaps some of them were once free, Christians have escaped from the bondage of sin, Once, it may be, they loved the world and the things that are in the world; once the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life filled their heart. The moral miasma of the corruption that is in the world was defiling their soul; but they escaped, drawn by the powerful attraction of the cross. They rose into a purer atmosphere; they lived in the knowledge of Christ. The full knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις) of Christ is the very sphere in which the true Christian dwells. Within the range of that knowledge grace and peace are multiplied unto him (Revelation 1:2). That knowledge is eternal life (John 17:3); it more than compensates for the loss of all that the world can give (Philippians 3:8); it is sweet, precious, holy, beyond the power of language to express. Those who have that blessed knowledge escape from the pollutions of the world. Sensual pleasures have no hold upon those who realize the holy joy of communion with the Lord. But they must watch and pray, and keep themselves in the love of God. It seems, indeed, almost impossible that any who have known the Lord should fall away into sin; but "the heart of man is deceitful above all things." Satan is ever on the watch with his insidious temptations, and sometimes, when all seems safe, the danger comes. Some of those who had escaped from the snare of the evil one are again entangled in it, and, alas! so entangled that escape becomes almost impossible. They are overcome; they are captives, brought back into utter bondage. Judas, like St. Peter, had forsaken all and followed Christ; and yet, oh strange and awful mystery of the deceitfulness of sin! he was covetous, like these false teachers; he sold his Lord for money. And if one of the chosen twelve who lived in familiar intercourse with Christ, who saw every day that gracious face, and heard those words such as never man spake, and witnessed his many works of power and love,—if one of those could fall completely under the dominion of Satan, bow jealously ought we to watch against the first suggestions of the tempter! how carefully should we take heed lest we fall when we most seem to stand! It is impossible, we may whisper to ourselves. We who have tasted that the Lord is gracious can have no taste for the pollutions of the world. But Scripture tells us it is not impossible; experience tells us it is not impossible. "What I say unto you"—such is the emphatic warning of the Lord—"I say unto all, Watch." All need that warning. The holiest saints of God do not count themselves to have already apprehended, to be already perfect: they watch.
3. Brow their case is more hopeless than ever. The last state is worse than the first. Satan had them once; now he has them again; he will not let them go. They once knew the way of righteousness, but, alas! that knowledge, now lost, only serves to deepen their guilt and to harden their heart all the more. For sin against light is more deadly tar than the sin of ignorance; and, the greater the light, the deeper is the sin of those who love darkness rather than light. For all knowledge involves responsibility; and, as the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is blessed exceedingly, so to sin against that knowledge must imply an intense blackness of guilt. It is like the sin of Judas, who was one of the twelve. The man who thus sins against light "hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace." He was once unclean, but he was washed, but he was sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11), and now, alas! he has returned to wallow in the mire of uncleanness. Holy Scripture says of such men, in words of most awful but most just severity, "It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.'' "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
1. Christians must avoid the sins of the false teachers; they must not despise dominion, they must not rail.
2. Christians must be strictly temperate; they must hate uncleanness.
3. Covetousness is deadly sin, especially in teachers of religion.
4. Christians must be on their guard against false teachers; high-sounding words and loud talk about liberty often lead men astray.
5. To sin against light, to fall from grace, involves most awful danger. "Be not high-minded, but fear."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Denying the Master.
Neither our Lord Jesus nor his apostles indulged in sanguine expectations and glowing predictions concerning the immediate results of the proclamation of the gospel. It was well understood in the early Church, by all but fanatics, that the difficulties with which Christianity had to contend were very formidable, and that, added to those encountered from without, were others—more insidious and dangerous—arising from within. Of these, false teachers, corrupters of doctrine, and preachers of licentiousness in the name of the holy Saviour, are denounced as proofs of the power of sin, and as signs of a coming judgment.
I. THE WAYS IN WHICH PROFESSING CHRISTIANS DENY THEIR MASTER.
1. Some take an unscriptural and dishonouring view of his nature, and deny him by denying his claims to Divine dignity and authority. From the early Gnostics onwards there were those who assailed Christ's account of himself, and his inspired apostles' account of him. It is well known that many of the early heresies related to the Person of Christ, and that early Councils were occupied with defining dogmatically the Divine and human natures. By way of opposition and correction, it may be said that to errors of the kind referred to we are indebted for our precious heritage, the Nicene Creed, in which orthodox doctrine was finally and sufficiently fixed. Still, the general determination of truth is no bar to the continuance of sin and error; and there has been, perhaps, no age in which there have not arisen either individuals or communities who have denied their Master.
2. Some repudiate Christ's rightful authority. There are many who have not the theological interest which would lead them to discuss Christ's nature, who nevertheless resent the claim advanced on his behalf to be the Legislator and Judge of human society. The Church, on the one hand, the individual reason on the other, may be put into competition with the Lord Christ.
3. Some deny Christ by practically disobeying his precepts. To such as these Jesus referred when he asked, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Profession of allegiance only renders real rebellion the more hateful to our Lord.
II. THE UNREASONABLENESS AND GUILT OF THOSE WHO THUS DENY THEIR MASTER.
1. In view of the claim established by redemption, such are guilty of base ingratitude. The introduction of the clause, "the Master that bought them," gives point to the condemnation. They who deny Christ deny One who lived, suffered, and died for them, and whom accordingly they ought to regard and treat with a tender and reverential gratitude. They are like enfranchised slaves turning round upon their liberator, speaking of him with scorn and derision, treating him with neglect and indifference, if not with hatred and hostility.
2. In view of their own profession of subjection and indebtedness to him, there is gross inconsistency.
3. In view of the doom declared against deniers of Christ, their conduct is the uttermost degree of infatuation. They bring upon themselves swift destruction. The time shall come when they who deny him shall be denied by him - J.R.T.
"A preacher of righteousness."
In the Book of Genesis we read that Noah was a righteous and blameless man, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and walked with God. Josephus, who preserves, it would seem, an old Hebrew tradition, witnesses not only to Noah's just and pious character, but to his ministry to the sinful generation among whom his lot was cast. After describing the sinfulness of the people, Josephus proceeds, "But Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and, being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and acts for the better; but, seeing that they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him." The office and ministry ascribed to Noah are required in every generation, and God ever raises up faithful men whom he empowers to discharge amongst their contemporaries the duties devolving upon the preachers of righteousness.
I. THE NECESSITY FOR PREACHERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. This appears from a consideration of man's nature. Human beings are constituted with moral capabilities and with faculties to be employed in a moral life. Intelligence, conscience, and will are the prerogative of men among the inhabitants of this earth. And even the most degraded, those most nearly allied in habits to the brutes, are susceptible of elevation in the scale of moral life. He who examines, fairly and completely, the nature of man must admit that he is made for righteousness.
2. And the requirement of God corresponds with the nature of man. God calls men to righteousness, holds them responsible to himself, as the righteous Governor and Judge, for obedience or disobedience to his commands.
3. Yet it is not to be questioned that the ideal of human character and conduct has not been reached, that unrighteousness has prevailed amongst men, that in the highest sense "there is none that doeth righteousness"—none who has no failings to acknowledge, none who has a perfect obedience to present.
II. THE IMPORT OF THE PREACHING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. The standard of righteousness has to be maintained. It would be base indeed on the part of the preacher were he to substitute an inferior standard for the Law of God, were he to accommodate his teaching to the corrupt nature and the ungodly life of the sinful. The Law, which is holy, just, and good, must he upheld in all its purity and in all its rigidity. And this may he done with the assurance that the conscience, even of the iniquitous, will in all likelihood acknowledge that the right is a higher and better standard than the agreeable or the customary, however human infirmity may have practically adopted and followed the latter. Every minister of religion is bound to insist upon a scriptural rule of right, to apply the laws of morality to all parts of human nature, to all relations of human society.
2. The violators of the Law of righteousness have to be rebuked. Probably the reference in the text is especially to this aspect of the preacher's service. It is not enough to say, "This is what men should be and do!" It is necessary to address to the disobedient the remonstrances, the rebukes, the warnings, which are authorized by the Word of God. Expostulation, reproach, and admonition are not the most agreeable or the most easy parts of a preacher's work; yet they are indispensable, and are often most valuable in their effects. Many faithful preachers have, like Noah, to lament that their rebukes and warnings seem to have been in vain; yet they have the satisfaction of having done their duty and delivered their soul.
3. The restoration of righteousness by means of the Divine Mediator has to he proclaimed. There is a righteousness which is by the Law; but there is also a higher righteousness which is by faith in Christ unto those who believe, and this is exactly adapted to the needs of sinful men, who upon repentance and faith may become "just with God." It is the privilege and the delight of the Christian preacher to exhibit the beauty and appropriateness of this spiritual righteousness, and to invite men to use those means by which they may secure this for themselves.
III. THE METHODS OF THE PREACHING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. The most natural and obvious method is by the utterances of the living voice, the organ by which, according to the constitution imposed upon man, truth is communicated and impression produced by the rousing of deep and divinely implanted emotion.
2. Yet there are other means of preaching righteousness, for which some may be qualified who are not gifted with effective speech. The press affords in these days an outlet for much consecrated Christian energy, and most important is it, when gifted authors are found endeavouring to lower by their writings the standard of human morality, that Christian thinkers and writers should wield their pen, in all departments of literature, in the service of righteousness and of God.
3. In any case righteousness may be, and should be, preached in the impressive and effective language of the life.
IV. THE RESULTS OF THE PREACHING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. Such preaching must be witness of condemnation against those who refuse it.
2. But to those who accept and obey the Divine message it is the means of salvation and of life eternal - J.R.T.
Deliverance and condemnation.
No human government is perfect. The knowledge of earthly rulers is limited, and they are utterly incapable of discriminating among individual cases; and it often happens that they have not the power to do all that is desirable and expedient. In contradistinction from the necessary imperfections of human governments is the perfect adaptation and sufficiency of that which is Divine. "The Lord knoweth" how to rule and to judge, for his wisdom and his equity are alike faultless; and his power is as irresistible as his knowledge is all-embracing.
I. THE DISTINCTION IN HUMAN CHARACTER DRAWN BY THE LORD AND JUDGE OF MANKIND. Men discriminate often upon unsound principles, always with insufficient data. They are guided very much in their estimate of their fellow-men by such considerations as social position and social acceptableness. They cannot take into their deliberation the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hence the inadequacy of all human attempts to create a moral distinction among men. Now, according to St. Peter, our Divine Ruler distinguishes men into
(1) the godly, or those animated by true piety, by a reverence for God's Law, and a responsive appreciation of God's love; and
(2) the unjust, or those who have no respect for the law of rectitude, human or Divine.
II. THE CORRESPONDING DISTINCTION OF TREATMENT ON THE PART OF THE LORD AND JUDGE OF MANKIND.
1. The godly are not exempted from temptation, but are delivered out of it. In illustration of this principle of the Divine government St. Peter refers to Noah, whose lot was cast in a generation of sinners and scoffers, but who was preserved from yielding to the evil solicitations to which he was exposed; and to Lot, who, though vexed with the lascivious life and lawless deeds of his wicked neighbours, was yet delivered from participation in their guilt and their doom. Certain it is that Divine providence allows the purest and the best to come into constant contact with the bond—slaves of sin, doubtless in order that their virtue may be tested and their character strengthened. But never does God abandon those who confide in his care, and who comply with his conditions of safety. The means by which he protects and delivers his own are known to himself, and he makes use of them in his own time. Thus, however formidable may be the temptations to which the godly are exposed, a way of escape is made for them, and they are delivered from the hand of the enemy.
2. The unrighteous cannot escape just retribution. It does not matter how high is their station, in what esteem they are held by their fellow-creatures, what is their power and their skill. All who defy and all who forget God must surely learn that they are subject to the control of infinite justice, administered by omnipotence. The apostle, in the context, adduces illustrations of retributive righteousness, and reminds his readers that the rebel angels were cast into Tartarus, that a flood was brought upon the ancient world of the ungodly, and that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ashes. For all impenitent sinners there is punishment, even here and now; and the Scriptures reveal the approach of a day of judgment in which God shall render to every man according to his works, and in which those who have exalted themselves against the holy Supreme shall awake to "shame and everlasting contempt."—J.R.T.
The sinner's hire.
In the course of his denunciation of abandoned sinners St. Peter makes use in two places of this remarkable expression, "the wages of unrighteousness," or "the hire of wrong-doing"—in the fifteenth verse as something loved and sought by Balaam, and in the twelfth verse as that which shall be the portion of the impenitent transgressor. The idea was one which evidently took very forcible possession of the apostle's mind, and, however little it may be in harmony with the sentimental and purblind type of religion too prevalent in our time, it is an idea in perfect harmony with the stern and righteous government of God. Upon the suggestion of the twofold application of the thoughts in this chapter, it may be well to treat this serious and awful subject under two aspects.
I. THE SINNER'S ILLUSION AS TO HIS WORK AND HIS WAGES. Life is represented as a bondman's service, and in any case the representation is appropriate and just. But experience of human character and history leads to the conclusion, which coincides with the teaching of revelation, that men constantly engage and continue in the service of sin under a double illusion.
1. They imagine the work which they undertake to be easy and agreeable. By many devices the tyrant sin disguises the evils of his service, and induces his victims to continue in it to their souls' injury and ruin. The pleasures of sin are for a season, and they who indulge in them are like those who eat of the fair apples of the Dead Sea, which turn to ashes in the mouth.
2. They imagine the reward of the service to be liberal and satisfactory. As Balaam lusted for the gold which was to be his hire, as Judas clutched the thirty pieces of silver which were the price of his Master's blood, so the bondmen of ungodliness deceive themselves with the imagination that the reward they will partake will enrich and satisfy their nature. Whether it be wealth or pleasure, power or praise, they set their hearts upon it, and it becomes to them as the supreme good. In such an illusion years of sin and folly may be passed.
II. THE SINNER'S AWAKENING TO A SENSE OF THE REALITY AS TO BOTH THE WORK AND THE WAGES OF SIN.
1. The service is, sooner or later, found to be mere slavery. The chains may be gilded, but they are chains for all that. The dwelling may have the semblance of a palace, but it is in fact a prison. The master's speech may be honeyed, but it is the speech of a tyrant, cruel and relentless. 2, The hire of wrong-doing is not payment, but punishment. "The way of transgressors" is found to be "hard." "The wages of sin is death."
APPLICATION. Let these considerations lead the sinner to forsake the tyrant's service, repudiate the tyrant's claims, and fling back the tyrant's hire - J.R.T.
Slaves promise liberty!
1. In denouncing the delusions promoted by false teachers, St. Peter passes from invective to irony. He exhibits in this verse, not merely the impiety, but the very absurdity, of sinners, who, themselves enslaved to sin, are so unreasonable as to offer freedom to their dupes and victims! The language which he uses gives an insight into religious truths of the highest practical importance.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS FREE FROM SIN, AND IS IN BONDAGE TO CHRIST. There was a time when he was the captive, the thrall of error, perhaps of vice or of crime. From that bondage Divine grace delivered him. But, in renouncing the serfdom to sin, he became the Lord's freedman. Yet the highest use the Christian makes of his freedom is to submit himself to the holiest and the kindest of Masters. Even apostles felt it an honour to subscribe themselves bondservants of the Lord Christ. The will of the Saviour is the law of the saved.
II. THE FALSE CHRISTIAN IS FREE FROM CHRIST, AND IN BONDAGE TO SIN, He whose religion is only a name may call himself Christ's, but in fact he has renounced the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light; he has given himself over to work the will of the tyrant who has usurped the throne which is by right Divine the proper inheritance of the Son of God. He may boast his liberty, but the boast is empty and vain.
III. THE PROMISE OF LIBERTY ON THE PART OF SIN'S SLAVES IS FALLACIOUS AND VAIN. In politics it has always been common for those bound by their own lusts and vanity to make loud professions of liberty, and to invite men to partake of its delights. These were the men of whom Milton said they
"Bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
And still revolt when truth would set them free.
License they mean when they cry, 'Liberty!'
For who loves that must first be wise and good."
These were the men who led Dr. Johnson to denounce "patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel." These were the men whose conduct during the French Revolution led to the famous exclamation, "O Liberty, what crimes have been wrought in thy name!" It has been, and is, the fashion with socialists and communists, anarchists and nihilists, to sing the praises of freedom; but the "mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty," will have no homage from such professed admirers as these. What they want is license for their own sins and scope for their own vanity. So has it ever been, and so is it still, in religion. In the early ages of the Church the Gnostics professed to be wise, to have found the secret of spiritual freedom; but in too many cases these professions were a cloak for licentiousness. Again and again in the history of Christendom have there occurred outbursts of fanaticism, of which the text supplies explanation. The antinomian is a "bondservant of corruption;" but who so loud as he in the proclamation of liberty, in the promise to all men of a life of spiritual freedom? But freedom is worthless unless it be freedom from sin's vile, debasing chains, unless it be the practical repudiation of the tyranny of the prince of darkness. There is a servitude which it is an honour for a free man to accept; it is the service of Christ, which is "perfect liberty."—J.R.T.
"The way of righteousness."
By this expression the Apostle Peter denotes the same course of moral life as he designates in previous verses "the way of truth" and "the right way." The epithet "righteous" here employed to define and describe what in the New Testament is sometimes called "the way," is peculiarly suggestive and instructive.
I. IT IS THE WAY DESIGNED BY A RIGHTEOUS GOD. There is nothing that more signally distinguishes the true God from the deities of the heathen than his inflexible righteousness. His character is righteous; his works and the administration of his moral government are righteous; the laws which he promulgates for the direction of his subjects are righteous. "Righteous and true are thy ways, O thou King of the ages!"
II. IT IS A WAY CONSTRUCTED BY A RIGHTEOUS SAVIOUR. The execution of God's righteous plans for man's salvation was by him entrusted to his own Son. In Christ God appears before men as "a just God and a Saviour." The mediatorial dispensation in all its provisions is distinguished by righteousness; it is a revelation of righteousness as much as of love.
III. IT IS A WAY WHICH AVOIDS THE PATHS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. This, it may be objected, is tautological. But it is well to insist upon the fact that there can be no fellowship between light and darkness; that however professed travelers in the narrow way may disgrace their profession by unrighteous conduct, the religion of Christ can tolerate no such practices. Other religions may require only verbal assent or ceremonial conformity, but Christianity demands righteousness of life and, what is more, righteousness of heart. "Except your righteousness," says the Founder of our faith, "exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."
IV. IT IS THE WAY TRODDEN BY RIGHTEOUS MEN. The interest and attractiveness of a road depend in no small measure upon those who are its habitual frequenters. Judged by this test, the way of righteousness has attractions far beyond any other. It is the path which has for centuries been trodden by the great and good. The stimulus and encouragement afforded by the noblest and the best society are there enjoyed.
V. IT IS THE WAY WHICH LEADS TO THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH WHEREIN DWELLETH RIGHTEOUSNESS. AS is the road, so is its termination, its destination. If righteousness has a hard battle to fight for existence here on earth, it is comforting and inspiriting to be assured that the state to which we are advancing is one where unrighteousness is altogether and for ever unknown.
1. Seek and find this way.
2. Having entered upon it, turn not back, but persevere even unto the end - J.R.T.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
Archdeacon Farrar here finds "the burning lava of the apostle's indignation." The chapter is indeed in a style that well suits its theme. It is strong, not to say rough and rugged; wild, not to say weird and ghastly. It might be interesting to deal with the many metaphors he here employs, but probably an analysis of the whole chapter will better convey its teaching.
I. THE DOCTRINES OF FALSE TEACHERS. They are not definitely denoted, but one word probably indicates them all: "heresies" (verse 1)—self chosen doctrines, developing into endless varieties.
1. Self-indulgence of intellect.
2. Self-indulgence of passion. They are similar to the corresponding sins with which Paul and Jude deal in their Epistles.
II. THE CONDUCT OF FALSE TEACHERS. More is said here, much more, of their conduct than of their error. Their conduct is described:
1. In its relation to their teaching. That conduct is
(1) cunning (Jude 1:1);
(2) treacherous (Jude 1:3);
(3) daringly insolent (Jude 1:11);
(4) coveteous (Jude 1:14-16);
(5) deluding (Jude 1:19), promising liberty:
"O Liberty, what crimes have been wrought in thy name!"
2. In its relation to their own life. it is
(1) bitterly disappointing (Jude 1:17);
(2) enslaved and enslaving (Jude 1:19);
(3) degraded and yet ever degrading (Jude 1:22).
III. THE PUNISHMENT OF FALSE TEACHERS.
1. It is sure (Jude 1:3). Lingereth not, is not idle, slumbereth not; justice is sleepless.
2. It is in harmony with God's past dealings. The apostle cites other ages and other worlds. Their punishment is in harmony with God's dealings
(1) with angels;
(2) with the ancient world—Noah, Sodom, Gomorrah.
IV. THE CHIEF SIN OF FALSE TEACHERS. Its central evil is "denying even the Master that bought them."
1. In itself most guilty. Peter's memory burnt that lesson into him.
2. Leads to terrible woe (Jude 1:1-21). "The man who turns his back on well-known ways of righteousness, and leads others from those ways, is of all men in the most pitiable and terrible condition - U.R.T.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
I. OBJECTS OF PUNISHMENT.
1. On account of their anti-christian character. "But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." The connection of thought seems to be the following: There were prophets that" spake from God;" but there arose false prophets also among the people, i.e., in ancient Israel; as in that which was typified by ancient Israel, viz. in the New Testament Church, there were to be false teachers. Where, then, those teachers are, there is generally an imperfect condition of religious society which gives rise to them. Under similar conditions, similar manifestations may be expected. The false teachers rising up among them ("of your own selves shall men arise," Acts 20:30), these would have the opportunity of (literally) bringing in by the side of, i.e., by the side of the authoritative teachings, their heresies. The authoritative teachings they would not openly seek to combat; for that might lead to their being silenced, even in their speedy ejection from the Christian communities. Their policy would rather be to keep up connection with the Christian circle, and to bring in a spurious Christianity, having resemblance in form, but denial in substance. The authoritative teachings were of a saving nature; what these would seek to bring in would be heresies of destructions, i.e., not put forward with the professed intent to destroy, but from their nature fitted to conduct men to destruction. Their heresies would be soul-destroying; for they would "deny even the Master that bought them." The language is altogether remarkable. Christ is regarded as having paid the purchase money, which is not here mentioned, but is to be under stood, according to 1 Peter 1:19, of his precious blood. By that buying he has become Possessor and Master, i.e., with the right to command. The startling thing is that he is represented as the Master, through purchase or redemption, of the heretical workers of destruction. Nothing could more signally set forth the world-wide character of the atonement. The Master that bought them they, having once acknowledged, were to deny, to put away from them, to supplant by a counterfeit Christ. But it is dangerous to deny Christ; by doing so, in the counter-working of providence, they would only "bring upon themselves swift destruction." It is true that Christ represents the Divine slowness to wrath. Peter knew that every denial does not bring instantaneous destruction. It is only when it has been made abundantly clear that the denial is the settled habit of the mind, that swift, or rather sudden, destruction descends.
2. On account of their sensuality followed to the prejudice of Christianity. "And many shall follow their lascivious doings: by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of." It was to be an aggravating element in their punishment, that they were to be successful in spreading immorality. Sensuality is the charge which Peter brings up again and again. They were to allow themselves illicit gratification; and their example would be followed by many. This would be greatly to the prejudice of Christianity; for it would lead to its being misrepresented as pointing out the way of truth, i.e., the way of life, corresponding to the truth. Men outside, unable to distinguish between what properly belonged to it and what did not properly belong to it, would very naturally say of it, from what they saw in its professed representatives, that it encouraged licentiousness.
3. On account of their mercenary character. "And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose sentence now from of old lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not." Money is needed for the purchase of illicit pleasure. Covetousness was to surround the false teachers as an atmosphere. Continually breathing it, they were as teachers to use feigned words—not bound fast to the truth, but artfully adapted to man's prejudices. The end of teaching is to do good; it was to be to the disgrace of the false teachers that they were to have as their end to make merchandise of those over whom they obtained influence. But these teachers, who were to add to their other faults their being mercenary, would not go unpunished. Peter, in impassioned language, represents punishment as already on the way to them. "Their sentence now from of old lingereth not, i.e., the sentence against such has gone forth from of old, and, not delaying, it will in its course overtake them; and" their destruction slumbereth not," i.e., not delayed by sleep, as it were, it will follow hard on the sentence. Let them not think, then, that they will escape.
II. ANCIENT EXAMPLES OF PUNISHMENT.
1. Stated conditionally.
(1) The fallen angels. "For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." This was the most ancient example that there was to go back upon. Peter does not say what the sin of the angels was. Jude is more informing, and suggests that they did not place the right value on their own principality, on their proper habitation. There was something else that they placed before what they had, and, reaching after it, they fell from their high estate. God, it is said here, spared them not when they sinned, near though they were to him, but cast them down to Tartarus. This is, strangely, a word connected with heathen mythology, and is to be understood of that division of Hades which is the place of preliminary punishment, as distinguished from Gehenna, which is the place of final punishments. In Tartarus God "committed them to pits of darkness." There was an irony in the appointment. They loved not the brightness in which there was no feeling of being wailed in; and so they were cast down to be wailed in on every side by gloom. In Tartarus they are waiting judgment; and if they are imprisoned in gloom before judgment, what must their state after judgment be! There is no relieving of the picture here as in the other two examples that follow.
(2) The Flood. The dark background. "And spared not the ancient world." This ancient example comes home to us, as relating to our own flesh and blood. It is the most disastrous thing that has happened in the history of the race; it was so extensive and overwhelming in its sweep. God spared not the ancient world. Men multiplied on the earth for sixteen or seventeen centuries, and then the Flood swept them away as though they had never been. The darkness relieved. "But preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly." The antediluvians were ungodly, i.e., had lost a salutary impression even of the existence of God, and had cast off Divine restraints. They did eat and drink; they lived a life within the world of sense. There was one notable exception. This was Noah, who is here styled "a preacher of righteousness," i.e., in the midst of the prevailing ungodliness he had so much of the fear of God on his mind as to credit and proclaim, by word and act, that, if they did not repent of their ungodliness, the righteousness of God would be manifested against them in their destruction by water. And so God preserved Noah, and seven others on account of their connection with him, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.
(3) The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. The dark background. "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly." The description in Genesis is, "The Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities." Peter marks punitiveness in the completeness of the work of destruction. God turned the cities into ashes, and thus punitively overthrew them, i.e., so that they were obliterated as cities. Nor was this an exceptional procedure. God dealt thus with the cities because of their ungodliness, and he dealt thus with them that the ungodly of after-times might know what to expect from ungodliness. The darkness relieved. "And delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds)." There is not brought into view the fact that Lot made choice of Sodom from considerations of worldly advantage, and without considering religious privileges. He was to blame for being in Sodom, and yet, though he should never have been there, he is called righteous Lot, i.e., one who strived to live according to Divine rule. He was righteous in the midst of those who had no regard for law either human or Divine, as seen especially in their sensual behaviour. This had a wearing-down or wearing-out effect on righteous Lot. That righteous man, dwelling among them, was forced to see and hear things which tormented his righteous soul, and so he was worn out. When one has put himself in a wrong position, it is often difficult to get out of it. But because Lot did not allow his godly sensibilities to be blunted, God, with a certain sharpness, effected for him a deliverance.
2. Conclusion drawn.
(1) The bright side. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation." Peter has been dwelling on the bright side, so as to throw the thought out of form; he now puts the bright side into the conclusion. Noah and Lot were godly; their temptation lay in their being in the neighbourhood of the ungodly. But the Lord found ways and means of delivering them; the one deliverance involving the preservation of the human family, and the other deliverance signifying rectification of position. The Lord that delivered Noah and Lot out of their temptation will deliver all that, like them, are godly out of their temptation, whatever it is, when he sees it to be for his glory.
(2) The dark side. "And to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment." Three classes have been instanced of the unrighteous, i.e., those not right toward God. The Lord found ways and means of checking them; so all like them will be checked. The time will come when God will place them under punishment, to be kept under it unto the day of judgment. Let us, then, be warned off the rocks on which men long ago perished and are perishing still.
III. OBJECTS OF PUNISHMENT.
1. On account of sensuality. "But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement." This is connected with the thought of punishment. The teachers are now thought of as already present. The evil had already commenced, though it had not reached its height. They are singled out for punishment on account of their walking after the flesh in the lust whose object is that which defiles.
2. Or, account of lawlessness.
(1) The lawlessness described. "And despise dominion. Daring, self-willed, they tremble not to rail at dignities." They arc next singled out for punishment on account of their lawlessness. There is the same association in Jude. They "despise" (Jude's word means "set at naught") dominion or lordship (especially in Christ). In their objection to be ruled they go great lengths ("daring"), making self their rule ("self-willed"). In their presumption and self-assertion they tremble not—though it should make them tremble—to rail at dignities (adopting Jude's expression). The reference seems to be to dignities belonging to the heavenly world. They pay no regard, in what they say, to rank bestowed by God.
(2) The lawlessness condemned. "Whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord." Here Peter seems to assume acquaintance with what Jude says. Michael the archangel, with all self-restraint, and having regard to the original dignity of Satan, in contending with him simply said, "The Lord rebuke thee." Peter brings forward the angels (good) generally as greater in might and power than men are, and asserts that they do not retaliate upon the railers in what they bring up before the Lord.
(3) The lawlessness punished. "But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals, to be taken and destroyed, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant, shall in their destroying surely be destroyed, suffering wrong as the hire of wrong-doing." Here Peter flashes out against the false teachers. He thinks of irrational brutes, born with nothing higher than an animal nature, to be taken and destroyed. They are also irrational in railing in matters beyond them, and shall have a similar fate. In their destruction as responsible beings they shall surely be destroyed, getting their reward in wrong inflicted on them for wrong done by them (in railing).
3. On account of luxurious living. "Men that count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, spots and blemishes, reveling in their love-feasts while they feast with you." The reference is to luxurious living. Such living shows itself chiefly in banquets whose natural time is the night. To regard banqueting in the daytime with peculiar zest was the sign of a very diseased state of mind. It was a more serious thing to connect luxurious living with the love-feasts. That made the false teachers spots of dirt, blemishes, at those holy gatherings at which they were present, while they feasted with Christ's people.
4. On account of sensuality. "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; enticing unsteadfast souls." There was the sensual look, apparently, even at the love-feasts. This was accompanied by restlessness in sin, reflected also in the eye. Those to whom the bait was held out, and who became their prey, were souls not yet established in faith and the pursuit of pure pleasure—men, according to the after-representation, only a few paces from heathenism.
5. Or, account of covetousness.
(1) How their covetousness is regarded. "Having a heart exercised in covetousness; children of cursing." Here, again, greed follows on sensuality. Spiritual gymnastic is needed to counteract the greed of the heart; gymnastic was employed by these teachers to the increase of the greed of the heart. As greed increased, the blight came down on their spiritual nature. The ripe result was that, in the ravenousness of greed, they became "children of the curse." That is the Hebrew way of saying that the curse found its way deep into their nature.
(2) Comparison with Balaam. "Forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beer, who loved the hire of wrong-doing; but he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spake with man's voice and stayed the madness of the prophet." Balaam, forsaking the right way, went astray. It was wrong for him ever to think of going to Barak, who wished him to curse Israel. "Thy way," he was told, "is perverse before me." tie was swayed from the right way by loving the hire of wrong-doing. "And God's anger was kindled because he went." He was rebuked for what was not forced upon him, but was his own transgression. It was a telling rebuke to be stayed in his mad journey by the dumb animal speaking with man's voice. Like Balaam, these men were prostituting their powers in the service of gain, and would not fare better in the end.
6. On account of false promises.
(1) Comparisons. "These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved." Under strong feeling, Peter seizes on natural imagery to describe the false teachers. To a traveler in a desert nothing can be more grateful than the appearance of a well; but, when he comes up to it, and finds it without water, he receives a bitter disappointment. In a protracted drought the farmer keenly scans the face of the sky; a misty cloud is hailed by him, and he watches its changes and course, but it is driven past by the storm-wind, and not a drop of rain descends. So those false teachers held out promises which they did not fulfill; and in another natural appearance he sees their end foreshadowed—a meteor seen for a little, and then passing into the blackness of darkness.
(2) Sensual promises. "For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error." Their words are regarded as swollen out beyond the ordinary size, while they are filled with emptiness. It is in a sensual condition of mind that they use their swollen words. The bait they hold out is sensual gratification. "Their guilt is exhibited as aggravated by the fact that the persons whom they plied with the vile bait of sensual indulgence were those least fit to resist it; not men who were established in the new faith, but men who had but recently broken off from the ranks of heathenism, or who had as yet got but a few paces, as it were, in the process of separating themselves from their old pagan life" (Salmond).
(3) Promising liberty, while themselves bound. "Promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage." In swollen language they promised liberty: but were they themselves free? No; they were the bondservants of destructive lusts. When their lusts were destroying them, and they could not cease gratifying them, what was that but bondage?
7. On account of their apostasy.
(1) Last state worse than the first. "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first." Peter thinks of them, in conclusion, as punished in their moral degradation. They were once the prey of the miasmata—the defilements—of the world. There supervened a blessed time of escape. This was when they had knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (the name being appreciatingly dwelt upon). The word is used which means "appreciative knowledge;" and it would seem to be implied that there was reality in their spiritual experience. But the time came when they were again entangled in the miasmata of the world, and overcome by them. In that case they were the worse for the experience through which they had come. We cannot have conviction of sin and appreciation of Christ, and put away from us that experience, without our bringing evil into our nature far beyond what we were capable of in our former state. Judas was a worse man that he had come into such nearness to Christ, than he would otherwise have been. Therefore let us be careful how we treat visitations of the Spirit, solemn experience.
(2) Preferable evil state. "For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them." The false teachers again are represented as having known the new life of Christianity, as having turned to the holy commandment delivered to them. Better that they had remained in heathenism than, after knowing the new life, to turn back from the holy commandment upon which it depends. Therefore let us be careful how we treat Christian rules of conduct. There is a sacredness about them which is not to be trifled with.
(3) Proverb explanatory of relapse. "It has happened unto them, according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire." This double proverb is not explanatory of the last state being worse than the first, but simply of the being again entangled and overcome. Though they knew the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they were not beyond temptation to sensuality. Their relapse took place in their giving the old nature the ascendency. The comparisons employed are not complimentary. The false teachers are compared to the dog and the sow—animals abhorred in the East. They have returned to the filth of heathenism as the dog to its vomit, as the sow that had washed to its wallowing in the mire. Therefore let us be careful not to give in to the old nature - R.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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