JUNE 10 – SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY: THE WORD AND THE TESTIMONY

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies….

2 PETER 2:1

Whatever it may be in our Christian experience that originates outside the Scriptures should, for that very reason, be suspect until it can be shown to be in accord with them.

If it should be found to be contrary to the Word of revealed truth no true Christian will accept it as being from God. However high the emotional content, no experience can be proved to be genuine unless we can find chapter and verse authority for it in the Scriptures. “To the word and to the testimony” must always be the last and final proof.

Whatever is new or singular should also be viewed with caution until it can furnish scriptural proof of its validity. Throughout the twentieth century quite a number of unscriptural notions have gained acceptance among Christians by claiming that they were among truths that were to be revealed in the last days.

The truth is that the Bible does not teach that there will be new light and advanced spiritual experiences in the latter days; it teaches the exact opposite! Nothing in Daniel or the New Testament epistles can be tortured into advocating the idea that we of the end of the Christian era shall enjoy light that was not known at its beginning.

Beware of any man who claims to be wiser than the apostles or holier than the martyrs of the Early Church. The best way to deal with him is to rise and leave his presence![1]


2:1 At the close of chapter 1 Peter referred to the prophets of the OT as men who spoke, not by their own will, but as moved by the Holy Spirit. Now he mentions that in addition to the true prophets in the OT period, there were also false prophets. And just as there will be bona fide teachers in the Christian era, there will be false teachers as well.

These false teachers take their place inside the church. They pose as ministers of the gospel. This is what makes the peril so great. If they came right out and said they were atheists or agnostics, people would be on guard. But they are masters of deception. They carry the Bible and use orthodox expressions—though using them to mean something entirely different. The president of a liberal theological seminary acknowledged the strategy as follows:

Churches often change convictions without formally renouncing views to which they were previously committed, and their theologians usually find ways of preserving continuity with the past through re-interpretations.

W. A. Criswell describes the false teacher as follows:

… a suave, affable, personable, scholarly man who claims to be the friend of Christ. He preaches in the pulpit, he writes learned books, he publishes articles in the religious magazines. He attacks Christianity from within. He makes the church and the school a lodging place for every unclean and hateful bird. He leavens the meal with the doctrine of the Sadducees.

Where are these false teachers found? To mention perhaps the most obvious places, they are found in:

Liberal and Neo-Orthodox Protestantism

Liberal Roman Catholicism

Unitarianism and Universalism

Russellism (Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Mormonism

Christian Science

Unity School of Christianity

Christadelphianism

Armstrongism (The “Radio Church of God”)

While professing to be ministers of righteousness, they secretly bring in soul-destroying heresies alongside true Bible doctrine. It is a deliberately deceptive mixture of the false and the true. Primarily, they peddle a system of denials. Here are some of the denials which can be found among certain of the groups listed above:

They deny the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, and His death as a Substitute for sinners. They are especially vehement in their denial of the value of His shed blood. They deny His bodily resurrection, eternal punishment, salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of miracles in the Bible.

Other false teachings common today are:

The Kenosis theory—the heresy that Christ emptied Himself of the attributes of deity. This means that He could sin, make mistakes, etc.

The “God is dead” fantasy, evolution, universal salvation, purgatory, prayers for the dead, etc.

The ultimate sin of false teachers is that they even deny the Master who bought them. While they may say nice things about Jesus, refer to His “divinity,” His lofty ethics, His superb example, they fail to confess Him as God and as unique Savior.

Nels Ferré wrote, “Jesus never was or became God … To call Jesus God is to substitute an idol for Incarnation.”

Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy agreed:

I am frank to confess that the statement (that Christ is God) does not please me and it seems far from satisfactory. I would much prefer to have it say that God was in Christ, for I believe that the testimony of the New Testament taken as a whole is against the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, although I think it bears overwhelming witness to the divinity of Jesus.

In this and in many other ways, false teachers deny the Lord who bought them. Here we should pause to remind ourselves that while these false teachers to whom Peter refers had been bought by the Lord, they had never been redeemed. The NT distinguishes between purchase and redemption. All are purchased but not all are redeemed. Redemption applies only to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, availing themselves of the value of His shed blood (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).

In Matthew 13:44 the Lord Jesus is pictured as a man who sold all He had to buy a field. In verse 38 of that same chapter, the field is distinctly said to be the world. So by His death on the cross, the Lord bought the world and all who are in it. But He did not redeem the whole world. While His work was sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, it is only effective for those who repent, believe, and accept Him.

The fact that these false teachers were never truly born again is indicated by their destiny. They bring on themselves swift destruction. Their doom is eternal punishment in the lake of fire.[2]


Destructive Heresies

2:1

The topic Peter discusses in this chapter appears to be opposite from the theme he develops in the previous chapter. In chapter 1, Peter hints at the pernicious influence of false teachers when he assures the readers that the apostles had not followed “cleverly invented stories” (v. 16). He implies that these stories, perpetrated by teachers who opposed Christ, were circulating within the broader Christian community.

When we consider the false teachings that the early church faced, we can understand Peter’s desire to encourage the believers to be strong in their spiritual lives. Peter provides all the necessary ammunition for the Christians so that they may successfully oppose the false teachers and defeat their purposes. He alerts the Christians to the war they must fight and equips them with spiritual armor to resist and dispel the anti-Christian forces.

For Peter, the time has come to depict these enemies of Jesus Christ. In the first three verses of this chapter he portrays the objectives of these false teachers (v. 1), shows the intended result of their activities (vv. 2–3a), and mentions their impending condemnation and destruction (v. 3b).

1a. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.

Peter marks the contrast between chapters 1 and 2 with the word but. He introduces a new subject that is familiar to anyone who knows the history of Israel. By mentioning the term false prophets, Peter is able to call to mind the spiritual struggle in which Israel was engaged in earlier years. While true prophets conveyed God’s Word to the people of Israel (see 1:19), false prophets introduced their own inventions. Here are a few instances in which God reveals his opposition to false prophets:

  1. He instructs the people of Israel to put to death a prophet who preaches rebellion against the Lord God (Deut. 13:5; also see 18:20).
  2. He compares the false prophets to Sodom because they “commit adultery and live a lie” (Jer. 23:14; also see 6:13).
  3. Among the people upon whom God pours out his wrath are the prophets who utter “false visions and lying divinations” (Ezek. 22:28).

These prophets were false for two reasons: because of their message and their claim to the prophetic office. God condemned them for the lie they taught and lived. Furthermore, they were residing among God’s people with the purpose of leading them astray.

Just as there were false prophets in Israel, Peter writes, so “there will be false teachers among you.” Notice that he uses the future tense to warn the people about the coming of false teachers. He is aware of their presence and knows that others will come. He is saying that the believers in the Christian era can expect just as many false teachers as God’s people encountered in Old Testament times. Peter repeats the warning Jesus gave in the discourse on the signs of the time: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matt. 24:4–5). This is an apostolic warning; Paul, John, and Jude also utter this same warning.

1b. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

Mark the following questions:

  1. What is the objective of these teachers? Peter uncovers their practices and motives when he reveals that these false teachers “will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” Furtively and unlawfully, they enter the Christian community to disseminate their heresies. In the parallel account, Jude has virtually the same wording: “Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you” (v. 4).
  2. What are heresies? The word heresies derives from the Greek verb which signifies to take something for one’s self, to choose, or to prefer. It refers to a chosen course of thought or action that an individual takes or that a group of people adopts as an article of faith or way of life. The inevitable result is the act of separation which gives the term heresy an unfavorable connotation. Thus, the Pharisees separated themselves from the Jewish people, and the Christians were known as a sect (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22). In the early church, Paul instructs Titus to “warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him” (Titus 3:10; and see Matt. 18:15–17; 2 John 10).
  3. What is the result? Peter leaves no doubt that he uses the term heresy in a negative sense, for he says that false teachers “will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” The literal reading is, “heresies of [for] destruction.” The false teachers, then, slyly entered the Christian community with doctrines designed to destroy the spiritual and moral lives of the Christians. The term destruction occurs twice in the last part of this verse. Peter writes that these teachers, because of their anti-Christian activities, bring “swift destruction on themselves.” By furtively entering the church for the purpose of destroying its members with false doctrines, these teachers destroy themselves. Indeed, they are on a suicidal mission.
  4. Were the false teachers former members of the church? The answer to the question must be affirmative. Peter writes that these teachers are “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” Note that Peter emphatically adds the word even. In addition to subverting the believers, these teachers continue to say that they have nothing to do with the sovereign Lord, who bought them. The expression sovereign Lord applies equally to God (Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10) and Christ (Jude 4). To Jesus has been given all authority and power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). In the Greek, the word is despotēs, from which we have the derivative despot. It is closely connected with the verb to buy. In the New Testament, this Greek verb occurs twenty-five times in a commercial setting, “but on five other occasions it describes the ‘buying’ of Christians. This clearly reflects the contemporary terminology of the slave-market” (see 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; Rev. 5:9; 14:3 [redeemed]). With his blood Christ has bought his people that they may do his will. But these false teachers who refuse to obey him demonstrate the height of insolence toward the sovereign Lord.

Just as a master has bought slaves from whom he expects obedience, so Jesus as sovereign Lord has bought his servants and demands obedience. But instead of obeying Jesus, these servants continue to reject him (compare Heb. 10:29). They are “apostate Christians who have disowned their Master.” In due time, therefore, Jesus will swiftly destroy them.[3]


Their Sphere

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, (2:1a)

Having just discussed the sure word of truth (1:19–21), Peter now shifts his focus to the deceptive words of false prophets (chapter 2). The coordinate conjunction but marks this contrasting transition. Through genuine prophets, God has spoken the truth to His people, but, through false prophets, Satan has always tried to obscure or contaminate God’s message. As servants of the Deceiver, false prophets propagate lies and falsehood in their systematic attack on the truth.

Throughout history, these spiritual mercenaries have always plagued God’s flock. Even in Old Testament times they arose among the people of Israel, spreading their deceptions and causing devastation (1 Kings 22:1–28; Jer. 5:30–31; 6:13–15; 23:14–16, 21, 25–27; 28:1–17; Ezek. 13:1–7, 15–19). That Old Testament Israel is in view here is evidenced both by Peter’s terminology (cf. Matt. 2:4; Luke 22:66; Acts 7:17; 13:17; 26:17, 23, where similar usages of the people clearly refer to the Jewish people) and his Old Testament illustrations (Noah—2:5; Sodom and Gomorrah—2:6; Lot—2:7; and Balaam—2:15).

Even during Jesus’ ministry, false prophets were still a serious problem for the Jewish people (Matt. 7:15–20). For that matter, the entire religious establishment was corrupt, with the Pharisees providing the quintessential example of false religion. Here is Christ’s indictment of those spiritual pretenders:

But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:39–52; cf. 12:1; Matt. 23:13–36; Mark 12:38–40)

Just as he knew false prophets had assaulted Israel, Peter understood that there will also be false teachers among the church. Years before, Jesus had predicted that in the last days the church would have to endure a variety of false teachers: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:4–5; cf. vv. 11, 24).

In a similar vein, Paul warned Timothy:

Preach the word.… For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:2–4; cf. Acts 15:24; 20:29–30; Rom. 16:17–18; Gal. 1:6–9; 1 Tim. 4:1–3; 2 Tim. 3:1–9; Jude 4, 12–13)

False teachers arise when the church begins to embrace the worldly culture around it. As a result, congregations no longer desire to “endure [hold to] sound [healthy] doctrine.” God-centered worship and preaching is replaced by man-centered antics and entertainment. A biblical emphasis on sin, repentance, and holiness is replaced by an emphasis on self-esteem and felt needs. People look for teachers who proclaim only pleasant, positive ideas “in accordance to their own desires” because they want “to have their ears tickled.” As a result, these popular teachers (whom “they will accumulate for themselves”) will “turn” the minds of the people from the truth, leaving them vulnerable to Satan’s deceptive influence.

The warning from Scripture is clear: false teachers will arise in the church. In fact, the church is one of Satan’s primary spheres of operation. For that reason, the true shepherd must continually be on guard—constantly studying, proclaiming, and defending the truth, “so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9b).

Their Secrecy

who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, (2:1b)

False teachers are never honest and straightforward about their operations. After all, the church would never embrace them if their schemes were unmasked. Instead, they secretly and deceptively enter the church, posing as pastors, teachers, and evangelists. That is why Jude describes them as “certain persons [who] have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4). The verb “to creep in” (pareisduō) means to “slip in without being seen,” or “to sneak in under false pretenses.” The term refers to a clever defendant attempting to fool a judge, or a criminal secretly returning to a place from which he was banished.

Posing as true shepherds, false teachers introduce destructive heresies (or literally, “heresies of destruction”). Destructive (apōleias) means “utter ruin” and speaks of the final and eternal condemnation of the wicked. In this context, the term indicates that the antics of these men have disastrous eternal consequences, both for them and their followers. That this Greek word has the sense of damnation can be seen by its use to describe those who go through the wide gate in Matthew 7:13, its use to describe the fate of Judas in John 17:12, its application to unbelievers’ doom in Romans 9:22, its use to describe the judgment of the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and its use by Peter in 3:7 of this letter to describe the destruction of the ungodly. Peter marked those heresies as contrary to the gospel—they damn rather than save.

The term heresies (haireseis) denotes “an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 4 vols. [London: Oliphants, 1940; reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1985], 2:203). By using this word, Peter indicated that those false teachers had exchanged the truth of God’s Word for their own self-styled opinions. As a result, they distorted the truth to their own ends, convincing the gullible to believe their lies. Their teaching, then, was nothing more than a religious counterfeit—a pseudo-Christian knockoff. While haireseis can simply refer to a sect or division (Acts 24:14; cf. 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 26:5; 28:22; 1 Cor. 11:19), here it refers to the worst kind of deviation and deception—teaching that claims to be biblical but is actually the very opposite.

False teachers do not always openly oppose the gospel. Some claim to believe it, to have the true interpretation of it; but in truth they misrepresent it, or offer a shallow, inadequate message that cannot save. Because their teaching is as lethal as it is subtle, the self-styled opinions of false teachers can damn the souls of unsuspecting, professed believers (cf. Matt. 13:20–22, 36–42, 47–50). Unless they repent, believe the truth, and turn to Christ, those who embrace these heretical doctrines will be eternally lost.

Their Sacrilege

even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2:1c)

The conjunction even underscores the unthinkable magnitude of the false teachers’ arrogance—a pride that evidenced itself by denying the Master. Denying is a strong term meaning “to refuse,” “to be unwilling,” or “to firmly say no.” The same verb appears in Hebrews 11:24 to describe Moses’ refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Here in this passage, Peter used the present tense participle (arnoumenoi) to denote a habitual pattern of refusal, indicating that false teachers characteristically reject divine authority (cf. Jude 8).

Master (despotēs, from which the English despot derives) means “sovereign,” “ruler,” or “lord.” The word appears ten times in the New Testament and always refers to one who has supreme authority. In four occurrences (1 Tim. 6:1, 2; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18) it refers to the master of a household or estate, who has full authority over all the servants. Here and in the other five occurrences (Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Tim. 2:21; Jude 4; Rev. 6:10) it directly refers to Christ or God.

Thus for Peter the supreme sacrilege of false teachers is that they deny the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Granted, they may not outwardly deny Christ’s deity, atonement, resurrection, or second coming. But internally, they adamantly refuse to submit their lives to His sovereign rule (Prov. 19:3; cf. Ex. 5:2; Neh. 9:17). As a result, their immoral and rebellious lifestyles will inevitably give them away.

The phrase who bought them fits Peter’s analogy perfectly. He is alluding to the master of a house who would purchase slaves and put them in charge of various household tasks. Because they were now regarded as the master’s personal property, they owed their complete allegiance to him. While false teachers maintain that they are part of Christ’s household, they deny such professions through their actions—refusing to become servants under His authority. Bought (agorazō) means “to purchase,” or “to redeem out of the marketplace,” and in this context is parallel to Deuteronomy 32:5–6 (cf. Zeph. 1:4–6). The false teachers of Peter’s day claimed Christ as their Redeemer, yet they refused to accept His sovereign lordship, thus revealing their true character as unregenerate enemies of biblical truth.

Many take this statement the Master who bought them to mean that Christ actually has purchased redemption in full for all people, even for false teachers. It is commonly thought that Christ died to pay in full the penalty for everyone’s sins, whether they ever believe or not. The popular notion is that God loves everyone, wants everyone saved, so Christ died for everyone.

This means His death was a potential sacrifice or atonement that becomes an actual atonement when a sinner repents and believes the gospel. Evangelism, according to this view, is convincing sinners to receive what has already been done for them. All can believe and be saved if they will, since no one is excluded in the atonement.

This viewpoint, if taken to its logical conclusion, has hell full of people whose salvation was purchased by Christ on the cross. Therefore the lake of fire is filled with those damned people whose sin Christ fully atoned for by bearing their punishment under God’s wrath.

Heaven will be populated by people who had the same atonement provided for them, but they are there because they received it. Christ, in this view, died on the cross for the damned in hell the same as He did for the redeemed in heaven. The only difference between the redeemed’s fate and that of the damned is the sinner’s choice.

This perspective says that the Lord Jesus Christ died to make salvation possible, not actual. He did not absolutely purchase salvation for anyone. He only removed a barrier for everyone, which merely makes salvation potential. The sinner ultimately determines the nature of the atonement and its application by what he does. According to this perspective, when Jesus cried, “It is finished,” it really should be rendered, “It is stated.”

Of course, the preceding interpretational difficulties and fallacies arising from this view stem from the misunderstanding of two very important biblical teachings: the doctrine of absolute inability (often called total depravity) and the doctrine of the atonement itself.

Rightly understood, the doctrine of absolute inability says that all people are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), alienated from the life of God (Rom. 1:21–22), doing only evil from terminally deceitful hearts (cf. Jer. 17:9), incapable of understanding the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), blinded by love of sin, further blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4), desiring only the will of their father the devil, unable to seek God, and unwilling to repent (cf. Rom. 3:10–23). So how is the sinner going to make the right choice to activate the atonement on his behalf?

Clearly, salvation is solely from God (cf. Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9)—He must give light, life, sight, understanding, repentance, and faith (John 1:12–13; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:8–9). Salvation comes to the sinner from God, by His will and power. Since that is true, and based on the doctrine of sovereign election (1 Peter 1:1–3; 2 Peter 1:3; cf. Rom. 8:26–30; 9:14–22; Eph. 1:3–6), God determined the extent of the atonement.

For whom did Christ die? He died for all who would believe because they were chosen, called, justified, and granted repentance and faith by the Father. The atonement is limited to those who believe, who are the elect of God. Any believer who does not believe in universal salvation knows Christ’s atonement is limited (cf. Matt. 7:13; 8:12; 10:28; 22:13; 25:46; Mark 9:43, 49; John 3:17–18; 8:24; 2 Thess. 1:7–9). Anyone who rejects the notion that the whole human race will be saved believes necessarily in a limited atonement—either limited by the sinner who is sovereign, or by God who is sovereign.

One should forget the idea of an unlimited atonement. If he asserts that sinners have the power to limit its application, then the atonement by its nature is limited in actual power and effectiveness. With that understanding, it is less than a real atonement and is, in fact, merely potential and restricted by the volitions of fallen human beings. But in truth, only God can set the atonement’s limits, which extend to every believing sinner without distinction.

Adherents to the unlimited view must affirm that Christ actually atoned for no one in particular but potentially for everyone without exception. Whatever He did on the cross was not a full and complete payment for sin, because sinners for whom He died are still damned. Hell is full of people whose sins were paid for by Christ—sin paid for, yet punished forever.

Of course, such thinking is completely unacceptable. God limits the atonement to the elect, for whom it was not a potential but an actual and real satisfaction for sin. God provided the sacrifice in His Son, which actually paid for the sins of all who would ever believe, the ones chosen by Him for salvation (cf. Matt. 1:21; John 10:11, 27–28; Eph. 5:25–26).

Charles Spurgeon once gave a pointedly accurate and convincing perspective on the argument about the extent of the atonement:

We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it; we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, “No.” They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No, Christ has died that any man may be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say that Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it. (Cited by J. I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ [n.p., n.d.; reprint, London: Banner of Truth, 1959], 14.)

Contemporary writer David Clotfelter adds these observations:

From the Calvinist point of view, it is Arminianism that presents logical impossibilities. Arminianism tells us that Jesus died for multitudes that will never be saved, including millions who never so much as heard of Him. It tells us that in the case of those who are lost, the death of Jesus, represented in Scripture as an act whereby He took upon Himself the punishment that should have been ours (Isa. 53:5), was ineffective. Christ has suffered once for their sins, but they will now have to suffer for those same sins in hell.

The Arminian atonement has the initial appearance of being very generous, but the more closely we look at it, the less we are impressed. Does it guarantee the salvation of any person? No. Does it guarantee that those for whom Christ died will have the opportunity to hear of Him and respond to Him? No. Does it in any way remove or even lessen the sufferings of the lost? No. In reality, the Arminian atonement does not atone. It merely clears the way for God to accept those who are able to lift themselves by their own bootstraps. The Calvinist does not believe that any fallen person has such power, and so he views the Arminian atonement as unsuited to the salvation of sinners and insulting to Christ. (Sinners in the Hands of a Good God [Chicago: Moody, 2004], 165; emphasis in original)

Therefore, false teachers’ sins were not paid for in the atonement of Christ.

Contrary to what some Christians believe today, people who reject Christ’s lordship are not merely to be designated as second-class Christians (as believers but not disciples). Instead, those who reject Christ’s sovereign lordship will face swift destruction if they do not repent from such rebellion (cf. Heb. 10:25–31). Swift (tachinos) means “quick,” or “imminent,” and destruction (apōleia) refers to perdition or eternal damnation in hell (cf. Matt. 7:13; John 17:12; 2 Thess. 2:3). This horrible fate, coming either at death or at Christ’s return (John 12:48; 2 Thess. 1:7–10) awaits false teachers and all who follow their unrepentant path.[4]


1 In the present argument, the writer does not designate his adversaries as “false prophets”; rather, the term pseudoprophētai (GK 6021) is applied to deceivers who arose “among the people,” i.e., Israel of old. What the text does say is that “there will be false teachers among you.” The verbal tense is important, for it suggests that the Christian community will need to be on guard in the future.

Against the tendency of traditional scholarship to locate 2 Peter in the early or mid-second century, this description fits well in a mid-sixties scenario in the first century. Ethical lapse has visited the church as it seeks to take root in Gentile culture. Such occurs long before the noted (Gnostic) heretical schools of the second century are established. The appearance her of the term haireseis (GK 146), from which we derive the word “heresy,” has further fed the misconception that 2 Peter mirrors a late date—a date in which heresy is already widespread. However, Paul, writing in about the year AD 55, also uses the term in the sense of “factions” or “divisions” (1 Co 11:18). The phrase “destructive heresies” can be understood in the sense that the opinions or teachings of Peter’s opponents lead ultimately to their own ruin (so Bauckham, 239–40).

The slave-market metaphor, also in 2:19, is employed in v. 1: “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (cf. Jude 4, where the same language is used of Jude’s opponents). What sort of denial might this be? As with Jude’s adversaries, these people have apparently made a confession of faith at one time and now have departed from the faith. The denial, as Green, 107, observes, is primarily ethical and not intellectual in nature. The slave metaphor, reappearing in 2:19, confirms this suspicion.[5]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2294–2295). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 280–282). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 69–76). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Charles, D. J. (2006). 2 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 396–397). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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