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STUDY SEVENTEEN: 2PETER 2

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018

In chapter 2 Peter addresses the main point of his second letter: the presence of false teachers in the church. He does not hold back in his exposure and condemnation of these people. He knows what they are like. He knows their impact on the church. He knows the judgement that is hanging over them.

In the research task below, identify the negative personal characteristics of these people, the impact of their teaching and methods, and the judgement towards which they are headed.
Verse 1:
Personal characteristics

Impact on others

Impending judgement

Verse 2:
Impact on others

Verse 3:
Personal characteristics

Impact on others

Impending judgement

Verse 4-9:
Impending judgement

 

Verse 10:
Personal characteristics

 

Impending judgement

Verse 12:
Personal characteristics

 

Impending judgement

Verse 13:
Personal characteristics

 

Impact on others

 

Impending judgement

 

Verse 14:
Personal characteristics

 

Impact on others

 

Verse 15:
Personal characteristics

 

Verse 17:
Personal characteristics

Impending judgement

 

Verse 18:
Personal characteristics

 

Impact on others

 

Verse 19:
Personal characteristics

 

Impact on others

 

Verse 20-21:
Impending judgement

 

Verse 22:
Personal characteristics

 

 

A. THE NATURE OF THE FALSE TEACHERS

The false teachers described by Peter are not outside the visible church – they are not teachers from a different religion or from a cult. They are inside the visible church, meeting together with those who believe in Jesus Christ, even sharing in the Lord’s Supper. However, what they teach is ‘false’ – the Greek prefix is pseudo. It involves not just the quality of a lie, but also a certain intention to deceive – a deliberately deceptive falseness.

Of these false teachers Peter says to his readers (and Jude warns against very similar false teachers):

They are ‘among you’ – they are ‘in’ your midst [2:1, 13; compare Jude 4,12].
They employ deception [2:1].
They deny Jesus Christ [2:1, compare Jude 4].
Their behaviour is shameful [2:2].
They are greedy [2:3,14].
They have made up what they teach [2:3].
They follow their own corrupt desires [2:10, compare Jude 16].
They despise authority [2:10, compare Jude 8].
They are bold and arrogant [2:10, compare Jude 16].
They are blaspheme celestial beings [2:12, compare Jude 8, 10].
They are like brute beasts, acting on instinct [2:12, compare Jude 10, 19].
They carouse in broad daylight [2:13].
They revel in their pleasures [2:13].
They are fully and constantly sinful [2:14,19; compare Jude 4, 8].
They know the truth but do not follow it [2:15, 20-22].

Apart from their association with the local church, there is nothing about these people that would lead us to believe they were genuine followers of Christ. Indeed, there is everything to indicate the opposite.

Consider:

Their denial of Jesus Christ. Acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord is the one essential without which a person cannot be saved. They fail here at this critical point.

Check these scriptures:
Romans 10:9

John 8:24

Their lives. Their arrogant and continual pursuit of evil is also a denial of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself, as well as the apostles, made it clear that genuine faith in Jesus Christ is validated by an increasingly godly life.

Check these scriptures:
Matthew 7:15-23

John 14:15

Galatians 5:22-25

James 2:14-26

2Peter 1:3-11

1John 2:3-6

Although they associate with believers, these people of whom Peter is speaking demonstrate clearly that they are not believers. They have heard the truth. They know the truth. They may even talk about the truth. But they are far from believing it, despite their constant exposure to it in the church. Indeed, their familiarity with the truth has blinded them so that they do not even see the extremely dangerous position they are in.

B. THE IMPACT OF THE FALSE TEACHERS

The impact of these false teachers is terrible, especially their impact on weak or new believers. This impact also points to the fact that these people are not genuine believers. Genuine believers seek the glory of God and the well-being of their fellow believers. These people seek only to please themselves. By their denial of Christ and their corrupt lives they are destroying what they pretend to believe in.

Peter (and comparing with Jude) describes their impact as follows:

Their teaching is termed ‘destructive heresies’ [2:1].
It impacts many [2:2].
They bring the way of truth into disrepute [2:2].
People are exploited by them and their teaching [2:3].
They cause harm [2:13].
They are ‘blots and blemishes’ on the local church [2:13; Jude 12].
They seduce the unstable [2:14].
Their teaching and their promises are useless, without substance [2:17; Jude 12].
They appeal to the desires/lusts of the ‘flesh’ [2:18].
They entice those who are just escaping from unbelief or wrong belief [2:18].

 

C. THEIR IMPENDING JUDGEMENT

Peter (and Jude) has no hesitation about affirming the judgement to which these false teachers are headed. His condemnation of them is extremely strong.

He says:

They are bringing swift destruction on themselves [2:1].
Their condemnation has long been hanging over them [2:3; Jude 4].
Their destruction has not been sleeping [2:3].
God will certainly not spare them [2:4-6; Jude 5-7].
God knows how to hold them for the day of judgement [2:9].
They, ‘like brute beasts’, are ‘born only to be caught and destroyed’ [2:12].
They will be paid back for the harm they have done [2:13].
Blackest darkness is reserved for them [2:17; Jude 13].

 

Read Romans 1:18-32. From these verses:
Compare the description of these people with Peter’s description of the false teachers.

 

 

 

 

 

This inevitable and terrible condemnation and judgement that hang over the false teachers described by Peter is an additional clear indication that they are not genuine believers. Those who believe in Christ have been permanently redeemed from condemnation and judgement. The wrath of God due to them was fully poured out on Christ. They are saved from his wrath. There is no condemnation.

Check these verses. What grand assurance do they give to genuine believers?
John 3:18-19

 

John 5:24

Romans 5:9

Romans 8:1

 

Those who believe in Christ have this guaranteed deliverance from wrath, condemnation and judgement. But those who do not believe in Christ are the objects of God’s wrath, and under constant threat of present and future condemnation and judgement.

 

D. HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS RESPOND?

Peter’s second letter, like Jude’s letter, was written to address the presence of false teachers in the church. His second chapter speaks directly and exclusively about the false teachers. But what he wrote in chapters one and three is also because of the false teachers.

Go back to 2Peter 1. Given his exposure and condemnation of false teachers in chapter 2, suggest why Peter included the following in chapter 1.
His strong affirmation of who Jesus really is [1:1-2].

 

The importance of the knowledge of God and of Christ [1:2,3,5,8],

 

The sufficiency of the word of God [1:4].

 

His strong encouragement to believers to demonstrate the integrity of their faith by the way they live [1:5-11].

 

The importance of keeping focused on the truth [1:12-15].

 

The integrity of the apostles’ teaching [1:16-18].

 

The divine origin and authority of the Old Testament [1:19-21].

 

Everything Peter has said in chapter one is aimed at strengthening believers against the pressure and presence of the false teachers. When we move into chapter three we will see the same focus.