2 Peter 2:1-22
As Peter writes this final letter to these Christians before his imminent death, his concern for them now becomes clear. He has been urging them to keep going back to the Old and New Testaments (1:11-21), because he fears they will instead listen to false teachers, who scoff at the 2nd Coming (3:3,4) and so excuse their worldly behaviour. He has urged them to keep growing in their faith, adding all those things listed in 1:5-7, in dependence on his all-sufficient power and precious promises, but without the sure hope of Christ’s return there is little incentive for such effort, and they are easy prey to the deadly seduction of false teaching that offers cheap grace, grace that makes no demands on their behaviour.
The fact that we are repeatedly warned against false teachers in the Bible (not just Peter, but Jesus, Paul and John all give stern warnings) is a sure sign that we shouldn’t assume ourselves to be immune from this danger – even if we think we’re “firmly established in the truth”. So though this is the chapter I am sure excites us least, it’s one we need to hear, indeed it is central (in more ways than one) to the letter.
“False prophets” -notice the link with the previous verses. Just as there were false prophets in OT times, as well as Spirit-inspired prophets, so now, as well as true teachers (the apostles), there are false teachers.
“among you” – this danger is not out in the world, but within the church.
“secretly introduce” – smuggling them in, subtly not blatantly.
“even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” – denying his Lordship not in an intellectual sense, but in practice, by refusing to submit their lives to him in obedience. As though we can know him who bought us as Saviour and not also, in consequence, as Lord.
Notice their effect on Christians (“many” are taken in and led into sin) and on non-Christians (they “bring the way of truth into disrepute”). The consequence for themselves is spelt out too (“destruction”).
Three examples from Genesis to prove in the first place that destruction surely does hang over them, though Peter draws out a further truth too to encourage his readers- that God will surely save godly.
The first is probably a reference to the episode in Gen. 6:1-4 where angelic beings had sexual intercourse with women. Together with the example of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they show that God has a track record of judging the ungodly . In
passing, Noah and Lot provide encouraging examples to us as we live in a fallen world: like Noah, we’re to preach the Gospel in these last days as judgment hangs over our world, and like Lot, we should not be desensitized to the moral filth around us. Interestingly, in Genesis Lot seems a fairly greedy, cowardly, weak man, but clearly there was more to his character.
Here, summarized in 10b and then elaborated in 11-16, the
characteristics of these false teachers are most clearly spelt out – an arrogance which causes them to despise authority, and living for their lusts – particularly in terms of sexual license and greed. The precise meaning of v.11 is not easy, compare Jude 8-10; but I don’t think you need to worry about explaining every detail of this long chapter. The point seems to be that their arrogance led them to put themselves even above celestial beings in the way they spoke and thought, whereas actually, Peter says, they “are like brute beasts” (therefore, less than human almost).
They are brazen in their immorality (“in broad daylight”), presumably seeing it as a mark of their freedom in Christ (cf. v.19). “Eyes full of adultery” suggests that every woman is viewed as a potential opportunity for sex, and in teaching such licentiousness to unstable and immature Christians they of course appeal to “the lustful desires of sinful human nature” (v.18).
“springs without water” – promise much, deliver nothing. They mouth empty words, but they are seductive to the immature because they (i) speak with an assertive confidence giving the impression they know what they are talking about, (ii) they appeal to our sinful nature, and (iii) they promise freedom (though in fact it is mere bondage).
vv.20, 21 certainly make it clear that they professed faith in Christ, and had an understanding of the Gospel, but their subsequent rejection of it shows that they never were truly regenerate; the proverbs about dogs and pigs, both unclean animals, suggest that their true nature is not that of God’s elect. But in view of all they had known and experienced, their judgment will be all the more severe.