2 Peter 2: Destructive Lies
In the past few years, our society has had a barrage of claims about truth and lies.
#fakenews. Claims about election fraud. Websites are devoted to verifying politicians’ statements.
We are left to wonder, Who is telling the truth? Or more cynically, Is anyone telling the truth?
Truth and lies are hard to sort out.
Parents know this. A fight erupts from two children. Mom and Dad put on their “Judge robe,” and sit at the bench. We hear the stories, and they are usually in conflict with each other. Wishing we had the wisdom of Solomon, we pray for insight before we have to slam the gavel down and offer a verdict on the “TRUTH.”
This happens in our homes. It happens in our political world. And it happens in the church.
Today’s passage speaks to this. Truth vs. Lies. With an emphasis on the lies. What is true about God? What is true about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that offers hope for eternal life? What is true about the conduct that our Savior calls us to walk in?
We will see—at least indirectly— that what we believe is shown by how we live.
Bad theology leads to bad “live-ology.” Bad conduct. Good theology leads to good conduct.
And the converse is also true: How we live—our conduct—affects what we believe. There is a circular effect to this.
Also, when I say “theology,” I don’t merely mean what we know about. It’s a level deeper than mere head knowledge. When I say “theology,” I mean what we actually believe. In other words, what we believe about God and his Son, Jesus Christ, direct correlates to how we walk as Christians.
2 Peter 1
Open your Bibles to the Apostle Peter’s 2nd letter, called “2nd Peter.” It is near the end of the NT. A short letter.
The first part of Chapter 1 that Matt covered last week is very deep and very rich. Among other things, it is a call to know Jesus intimately and to walk in godliness. And God, through his gospel, has given us what we need to do that.
Today we’ll continue in the letter where Matt left off last Sunday.
In the rest of Chapter 1, Peter assures us that the gospel he preaches is heaven-sent. It is not something man invented.
16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 16: This story of Jesus is no clever myth, Peter says. We actually saw him and walked with him. And we even saw him on the mountain when his body was transfigured. When the earthly became glorious. We heard a voice from heaven.
And even more, we have centuries of biblical prophecy that has now been fulfilled when Jesus Christ came to earth, died unjustly, and was raised victoriously.
Peter is assuring the reader that what he has seen and now preaches is eternal and sure. It is absolutely TRUE. No lies. No falsehood. No fake news.
If we are going to sort out truth from lies in God’s world, the Scriptures are our anchor. Ephesians 4 tells us that we must be anchored in our knowledge of Jesus, lest we be tossed around by the waves and wind of false doctrine. We are anchored in truth through the Word of God.
2 Peter 2
Then in contrast to that, Peter writes the contents of chapter 2. He is writing to churches that know Jesus and know the truth.
But Peter has a deep concern.
He is concerned about people who believe and conduct themselves in ways that are contrary to the gospel of Christ.
And these people are actually within the church, and largely through their evil behavior are hurting people—genuine Christians— with their greed, immoral behavior, and corrupt lives.
We will read this chapter in three sections.
First, vs. 1-3.
1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
2And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
3And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Vs. 1-3 is a nice summary of the chapter.
He doesn’t say, “Beware!”, but it is certainly implied.
The churches he was writing to were infiltrated with false teachers. Heretics. They proclaimed a theology that was simply wrong.
I suspect their teaching wasn’t wrong in everything. I assume they had truth mixed in with their error. They may have quoted many Bible verses. (Satan did that to Jesus in the wilderness, trying to tempt the Lord.) They knew the lingo. They spoke eloquently. But truth was mixed with error.
And importantly, not only were they teaching what was wrong, they were living in wrong ways. Sensuality. Immorality. Greed. Exploiting Christians.
It’s not hard for me to think of such teachers today. I’ve seen their books and heard them speak.
And isn’t such teaching even more deceiving? False teaching cloaked with some truth is harder to discern than a teaching blatantly false in every way.
Peter spares no words in describing how destructive these teachers are.
- Speaking (and living) destructive heresies
- Denying Jesus Christ who bought them with his blood.
- Leading many astray through their sensual, immoral ways.
- In their greed, they are exploiting believers in the church with lies.
- They are condemned by God, heading for destruction.
Such graphic, hard language. And this is a taste of what is to come in the remainder of the chapter.
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
7and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked
8(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);
9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
10and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority…
Peter offers three examples of God’s severe judgment on the wicked.
- God didn’t spare angels, but cast them into hell. (These are angels gone bad, a.k.a., demons.)
- God didn’t spare the people in Noah’s day by bringing a flood to destroy them all.
- God didn’t spare Sodom and Gomorrah from their evil, sensual ways. He destroyed the cities.
Then in vs. 7, Peter throws in a fourth “IF”.
God rescued Lot from the judgment that came down on Sodom.
Peter is making his case:
- God is the righteous judge of all the earth. Do not doubt this.
- God is the compassionate rescuer of all who walk by faith.
Where is Peter going with this?
- Peter is assuring his readers that God is going to judge these false teachers who are harming Christians.
His judgment is sure.
- Peter is assuring his readers that God will certainly rescue his people. He will save them just as he saved Lot.
We find both warning and comfort in these words.
Now Peter moves into specific behavior of these false, deceptive teachers. And again, Peter doesn’t actually say much about their false doctrine. He focuses on their false and evil behavior.
10b ….Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,
11whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.
12But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,
13suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.
14They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!
15Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,
16but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.
18For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
What graphic descriptions of these false teachers. Peter hammers on his point with such eloquence.
Let’s go back through with a few comments.
On vs. 13:
“They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Usually dark sin is reserved for nighttime. In darkness we can hide our sin better. But these immoral teachers are so depraved that they rejoice to flaunt their sin in the daytime.
“They entice unsteady souls.” Believers who don’t have their lives firmly anchored on Jesus are unsteady. The lies and immoral behavior of these teachers is so alluring that Christians can be seduced.
“…they feast with you.” These teachers are actually in the church, eating with them. This likely refers to the Lord’s Supper and communion. The breaking of bread. I find it rather alarming that these evil men (and women) are right in the church. God forbid that that ever happen at Stonebrook. But we must not be naïve to think it couldn’t happen.
On vs. 14:
They are adulterers. All kinds of immorality.
And this graphic description: They have eyes “insatiable for sin.” Lust and other sins creates an unquenchable, insatiable thirst, like a parched man on a raft lost in the ocean drinking salt water. Eventually he goes mad with thirst. Sin never satisfies. Rather, it leaves us thirsting for more and more until we go mad.
“Accursed children.” The verdict on such teachers? They are accursed! The most dire verdict from God.
On vs. 19:
“They promise freedom.” In their lies and deception, they say that freedom in Christ means we are free to do whatever we want, even sin in ways clearly outside God’s will. A freedom from God’s law and will.
But such a so-called “theology” of freedom actually becomes slavery. Christ has indeed come to set us free, but it is a freedom from slavery to sin that leads to death, a message throughout the NT, including chapter 1 and Romans 6.
When we walk in sin, we may think we’re free, but we have a master. A cruel master that leads us where we do not want to go.
Today we may call such things “addictions”. But the NT describes it as “slavery,” a stronger word reminding us we have a master, a cruel master who leads us where we do not want to go.
There is only one way out of a life filled with darkness, deception, and death. That way out is Christ. Dying with him in his death, and rising to new life through his resurrection. He alone can take the curse of sin for us and set us truly free.
On vs. 20-22:
These verses may alarm us. Peter speaks in language that sounds like these false teachers are true Christians who have now turned to such lies and dark behavior that they are doomed for condemnation.
Or to say it in another way, it sounds like they are Christians who have now lost their salvation.
Is Peter say they were once born again, adopted by God as his children, forgiven by him… but now they are not? Is that what Peter is saying?
Re-read Peter’s description of these false teachers:
- They escaped the defilements of the world.
- They knew the way of righteousness.
- They had the holy commandment of God.
That sounds like they truly knew Jesus, doesn’t it?
I believe Peter here is describing someone who was deeply engaged in the church. They knew the Scriptures. They heard lots of teaching. They lived their lives with other Christians.
They are someone so enmeshed with the church that for a while it looks like they are true believers in Jesus.
But eventually it all comes out. They fall back into old lies. They turn to evil behavior.
And it snowballs from there. Immorality. Greed. Sensuality. Deceitfulness.
It becomes obvious, they never truly knew Jesus. They didn’t lose salvation, for they never truly had it, though for a while it appeared they did. In the end, we see the darkness and unbelief that was hidden in their hearts.
Many Scriptures point out that for the true believer, God promises he will sustain them. They will persevere in faith to the end.
Perseverance in itself is not what saves us. But perseverance is the mark of genuine faith in Christ.
What do we do with all this now?
I want to make four applications to our lives today from this passage.
- Saturate yourself with the Scriptures
As Peter said in Chapter 1, the Scriptures are no myth. They are written by eyewitnesses of Christ. And Jesus Christ fulfilled ancient prophecies. We can believe the Scriptures are Truth from God sent to earth.
We don’t need to freak out over false teaching. The better we know and believe what is true, the easier we will find it to recognize and reject false doctrine.
So we should find ways to saturate our minds and hearts with the truth of the Scriptures.
- Pay careful attention on Sunday mornings when you hear it.
- Read it daily by yourself and with your household.
- Join with a Community Group to study and pray over it.
- Pray that we pastors would not only stay true to God’s way but that we would teach soundly.
And as Matt talked about last week, we are to take that knowledge and understanding of God from the Scriptures and act on it. We obey. We grow in godliness. And as we obey, we understand God even better. Our faith is strengthened. Our love increases. And more and more we live fruitful and productive lives for Christ.
Daily saturate yourself in the Scriptures.
- Be alert to falsehood
Throughout the NT, we are called to be alert to false teachers and their evil conduct. They won’t come carrying a large sign that says, “I’m a false teacher!” They will come craftily. Slyly. They will have mixed messages, some truth mixed in with the lies. They will be living lives enslaved to sin, though it may be secretive.
Don’t be gullible, but examine what you hear with the Scriptures.
A church in the first century was like that.
Acts 17:11 ESVNow these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
So pray for discernment:
- When you hear my sermon.
- When you read a so-called Christian book.
- When you hear a podcast by some preacher.
- When you get a blog in your email.
An important part of being alert is not being naïve. We are good hearted and want to believe the best of people. And it’s hard to come to grips with the evil that some people promote and live.
But we are warned by Jesus to pay attention.
Jesus himself told us this in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:15–16 ESV“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits…
Peter in his letter is echoing Jesus. Be alert to falsehood.
- Grieve over sin
Sin should bother us. Sin in our own lives should bother us. Sin in our community should bother us. (Ames had an instance of that this week.)
- Sin should bother us because it ruins lives. It enslaves us and leads us to death.
- It should bother us because it dishonors the name of Jesus Christ who died for us.
- It is quite appropriate at time to have righteous anger when God is being dishonored by evil behavior..
One caution here: we must not cross the line from grieving and hating sin to becoming critical and condemning of people. It is not our job to condemn. It is our job is to love them. Jesus said we are even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
So even when we grieve over and hate sin, let us not become harsh, condemning cynics.
I will say this: if sin in our hearts and in our world does NOT bother us, something is wrong.
Because a believer in Jesus Christ has life in Christ. He/she knows the eternal truths of God. We are commanded to walk in holiness. And God’s HOLY…Spirit dwells in us. Evil should bother us.
If it doesn’t bother us, we have a problem.
One reason it doesn’t bother us:
As a believer, I have given in to sin too many times without repentance. My conscience has become calloused to evil. My heart is cold. My mind is not saturated with truth that brings life. If this is the case, I am going to need help immediately. Talk to a friend in your Community Group. Talk to one of us pastors. This will take great humility, but it will be worth it eternally to be completely vulnerable. Repentance is the word.
A second reason sin doesn’t bother us:
I may not be a Christian. God’s Spirit has not come in and given me new life…made me born again. So I am simply detached from God and what concerns him. This is the most alarming situation. Without Christ, I am under the wrath of God. I need a Savior. I need deliverance from my sin and the judgment I so richly deserve.
Talk to someone here at Stonebrook that you trust. Open up about your soul. I’m confident you’ll find grace and kindness to help point you to the truth of Christ that leads to life.
- Be comforted by God’s rescue
A Christian walking with the Lord will find it stressful on his soul by all the evil that is around us in our neighborhood, our campus, our schools, the workplace, and in media. I know it wears on my soul.
We may feel like Lot in vs. 7: “Tormented in his righteous soul over the lawless deeds that he saw and heard.”
In all this, Peter would tell us: Don’t lose heart. Don’t fear the sin around us. God is not silent. Nor is he absent.
Like in vs. 7-8, as the Lord rescued Lot in Genesis, so he will help you. He will comfort you. Strengthen you. Give you the grace to love people even though they sin.
Also, we are comforted by knowing God will judge those who are promoting lies and evil ways. Rest assured, justice will be done someday soon. Nothing will escape his eye. Be strengthened by that.
Truth matters. All truth matters. And truth about God and eternal life matter most of all.
God has given us his beautiful Word, the Scriptures. And within it is the glorious Truth, telling us about God himself. About ourselves. About sin and redemption.
May we feast on what is true and reject all that is false.
Jesus himself serves as our example:
In a prophecy about him, we hear this:
Hebrews 1:9 NIVYou have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Our Savior loves truth and righteousness. And he hates lies and evil.
May we walk with Jesus daily in what is true and glorious.