2 Peter 2: Corrupting Doctrine

In chapter 1, we find the construction of character through the truth, but in chapter 2, we have corrupt doctrine intent upon the destruction of the unwary. Peter gives a vehement description of false teachers whose denials of Christ’s glorious return equalled a denial of the Lord that bought them. An attack against Christ in His consummation is an attack against Christ in His redemption.

Peter strips these false teachers of all pretence and displays them in their true light. The chapter reveals how sensitive the kingdom of error and evil always has been to the proclamation of truth and goodness. The false teachers of the apostolic age were a very gross and shameless lot. We have many false teachers today, but they are often more subtle. Some are in the church, v. 1; many more are on the fringe of the church in institutions of so-called culture. In the end their denials of Christ are spiritually and morally destructive as were those of the blatant seducers in the early church. Study their programme, vv. 1-10; philosophy, vv. 11-19; and penalty, vv. 20-22.

The Character of False Teachers, vv. 1-4

In this chapter of unrelieved gloom, the darkness is appalling. Here we meet and face the awfulness of apostasy. The word “also”, v. 1, implies false as well as true prophets. The Old Testament gives many examples of such: in the days of Ahab, 1 Kings 22. 12, Isaiah, Isa. 9. 15; 28. 7, Jeremiah, Jer. 14. 14, and Ezekiel, Ezek. 13. Our Lord in His discourses gave warning of these things, Matt. 7. 15; 24. 11; Peter now confirms these predictions.

(a) Their Pernicious Ways, v. 1. What is illustrated in the Old Testament, and foretold by the Lord, is now described by Peter. “But” sets them in contrast with the holy men who were Spirit-inspired, 1. 21. When truth is maligned and misrepresented, the result is expressed in heresy, heterodoxy and hypocrisy. False teachers deny the complete body of doctrine from the atonement to the advent. Three distinct marks are mentioned in verse 1; they will introduce heresies, deny the Lord, and experience swift destruction. “Heresy in the New Testament implies false conduct, a deliberate and wilful severance from right thought and righteous paths. These men are as untrustworthy as their message. Their teaching was flattery, their ambitions were financial, their lives were dissolute, their conscience was dulled, and their aim was deceptive”, (Mayor). Here is error in full bloom, short-lived, and going on to destruction. “Privily” — they introduce secretly their heretical views; cf. Gal. 2. 4. They may declare the truth in correct phraseology but deny the spirit thereof. They are blatent in their blasphemy, denying the Sovereign Lord that bought them.

(b) Their Powerful Influence, vv. 2-3. Their success was widespread, and their influences were deep-rooted. It spread to infect others, and brought discredit on the Christian cause, v. 2. Their teaching was immoral, blasphemous and treacherous; they made “merchandise” of their hearers. These self-constituted prophets, never called by or owned of God, were counterfeits of the true, and actuated by false motives. Thus the denial of Christ is the same thing as departure from the truth. The fabricated words deceived their dupes as they trafficked in holy things. Lawless insolence and licentious indulgences may run riot, but the end is sudden destruction.

The Condemnation of False Teachers, vv. 4-9

(a) Their Punishment Assured, vv. 4-9. Jude and Peter write in testimony to the inflexible righteous judgment of God upon sin. Peter announces the spread of unscriptural theories; Jude dwells upon the desolating effects, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Their judgment is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. Three illustrations are given which graphically portray the end of those who despise the warning voice of God in His Word. Angels rebelled against the word of God; the men of the old world ridiculed the word, and the men of Sodom rejected the word of God. These were examples of the impartial judgment of God, and it is certain to fall even though it seem to linger, vv. 9-10. These warnings are solemn and the issues are serious to all who disobey, disregard or despise the Word of God. The nature of the sin of angels is not specific. They fell through pride and rebellion. In Jude 6-8, their guilt is placed on a level with that of Sodom.

Peter makes clear that man’s case in relation to God must be considered judicially, not sentimentally. No degree in supernatural status, v. 4; no defence in seeming solidarity, v. 5; and no defence in social security, vv. 6-8, can exempt from the justice of God in judgment.

The presumption of angels must be punished, and the procrastination of the antediluvians deserved judgment such as they experienced.

The cities of Sodom seemed secure, but they gave themselves over to such vileness that God destroyed them with fire from heaven. The context makes clear that these false prophets and teachers fell into the unnameable vices of those cities. They, like the Sodomites, set at defiance the laws of nature, as well as of man and of God.

(b) The Preservation of the Godly, vv. 5, 7-9. It is good to know that the deliverance of the godly and the destruction of the ungodly are both the work of God, v. 9. He saved Noah and delivered just Lot. We know not how we will be delivered but our God is able, ready and willing. How marvellous is the knowledge of the Lord! He understands the weaknesses of our physical, mental, nervous and moral inheritance, yet He gives us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Conduct of False Teachers, vv. 10-22

What a catalogue of sins is listed against these ungodly men. Licentiousness, wilfulness, vv. 10, 11; brutishness, recklessness, v. 12; sensuality, hypocrisy, infamy, vv. 13-16. They are marked by emptiness, v. 17; boastfulness, seductiveness, heartlessness, v. 18; powerlessness, v. 19. Where there is no internal government, bringing carnal lusts under subjection, all outward restraints will be held of no account. Wilful contempt of all authority is rife in our country today. Revelry, defiance, and unbridled license in conduct are on the increase.

(a) Diabolical Deeds, vv. 11-15. Whenever there is deviation from the principles of truth, righteousness is deserted and depravity and brutishness mark the apostate. Such men never tremble as they blaspheme glories, yet elect angels do not presume to bring accusations against evil ones, v. 11.

Language seems inadequate to describe these irrational men, such is the depth of the infamy and impurity to which they sank. v. 12. Everyone who throws his conscience overboard, and lives by his instincts, is no better than an animal. Let us remember, every time you or I do something “just because we want to”, we are no better. Balaam stands out as the ringleader of those who advocated indulgence and indecency.

(b) The Dreadful Description, vv. 15-19. Trace the satanic orders enumerated in Deuteronomy 18. 9-14 which led to the fall of Israel. The faith of the Christian is threatened by grave perils such as spiritists’ meetings, magic art, fortunetellers, sooth-sayers and the occult art of divination. Avoid these as you would a plague, remembering the emptiness of such things, v. 17. They have no settled principles, v. 17. They are boastful and seductive, promising liberty which consists of unbridled license, and are bondslaves of corruption, v. 18-19.

(c) Degeneration and Doom, vv. 20-22. Having become ensnared they will not escape the judgment of God. People who live for pleasure have no anchor, no roots; they are adrift, driven along haphazardly by whatever attraction happens to come along. Moral disaster and spiritual degeneration are the results of entanglement, v. 20, ending in utter apostasy, vv. 21, 22.

Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill,
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will,
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied
First put it out, then take it for a guide,
Halting on crutches of unequal size,
One leg by truth supported, one by lies,
They sidle to the goal with awkward pace,
Sure of nothing but to lose the race.

Author Unknown


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