Friday, 24 January 2020
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1
Peter now makes a contrast to the holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit mentioned in the previous verse. Unlike them, he now notes, “But there were also false prophets among the people.” Here, he uses the word ginomai. It signifies becoming or coming into being, and so it is more properly translated as, “But there arose false prophets among the people.”
These people grew out of the same congregation, but they did so without any sanction by the Lord. The true prophet of God was called by God. For example, Amos was a sheep breeder in the land of Judah, but the Lord called him to prophesy to the people of Israel.
The calling of a prophet is recorded at various times in the Old Testament, establishing the truth of his prophetic office. However, there are times where false prophets are clearly identified, some by name, others simply by the message they conveyed. The book of Jeremiah extensively deals with both false prophets and the false messages they would proclaim. Peter then notes that nothing will be different in the church. As he says, “even as there will be false teachers among you.”
Peter says this in the future tense, but he is certainly not excluding the fact that there could be false teachers among them even at that time. He is taking the long view of the matter and showing that false prophets will be as common in the church as they were among Israel. Jude, a contemporary of Peter, noted that such people had, in fact, crept into the church (Jude 1:4).
Peter then notes that such people would not normally do this openly. Rather, he says they “will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” The word he uses is found only here in the Bible. It signifies “close beside.” Therefore, these people will slide into their positions as if they are sound and proper. They will seem to be true followers of the Lord, but what they will then introduce will be heresies which only lead to ruin and destruction.
An example of this is the doctrine of “dual covenantalism.” It teaches that Jews are saved by adherence to the Old Covenant, while Christians are saved through the new. John Hagee teaches this, and it is actually the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and others. This is a destructive heresy because, instead of bringing salvation to the Jews he speaks to, the aberrant teaching is only leading theses Jews to condemnation and hell. No person – Jew or Gentile – can be saved through adherence to the Mosaic Covenant.
However, there are many other heresies out there. The list seems to get longer by the day as people dream up new and aberrant doctrines. Some are so flagrant that they even deny “the Lord who bought them.” The word Peter uses for “Lord” is not the one most commonly seen. It is one which signifies a master who possesses unrestricted power and absolute rule and domination.
The startling aspect to Peter’s words is that he did, in fact, deny the Lord. It is something that everyone knew about, and that everyone continues to know. Peter’s desire is that people watch, pay heed, and turn from any such action – even if it is from the most trusted of sources. No matter who it is, if they begin to deny the Lord, the people around him are to also turn from him. Such a denial will inevitably lead to disaster. As Peter says of them, they will “bring on themselves swift destruction.”
The verb is in the same tense as “denying,” and it should be rendered “bringing.” As Charles Ellicott says of this – “The two participles, ‘denying’ and ‘bringing,’ without any conjunction to connect them, are awkward, and show that the writer’s strong feeling is already beginning to ruffle the smoothness of his language.”
Peter is thoroughly frustrated at the thought of what he knew was coming. Having denied the Lord, he knew how easy it would be for others to do so. What is unclear is whether these are saved people, or if the words, “the Lord who bought them,” are speaking in a general sense, meaning that Christ’s atonement was sufficient for their purchase. Either way, they have departed from the truth.
If they were saved, that will not be lost, but the problem with teaching such heresies is not that it will affect the teacher’s salvation, but rather it will keep those who hear the false message from being saved. However, if they were not saved, and the idea of being bought by the Lord is one which is potential, but not actual, they will receive their just due for the denial of the Lord. Finally, the destruction that Peter speaks about is not one of occurring swiftly in time, but swiftly in the event. Whenever the Lord’s judgment comes, it will be swift, complete, and permanent.
Life application: The Bible is the only witness to the work of Jesus. It tells of His work from before time all the way through to eternity future. We cannot have a reliable view of Jesus without the Bible, and the Bible provides everything we need to have a complete and untarnished view of Him. In turn, Jesus reveals the unseen God.
Therefore, we cannot have a competent view of God without a proper view of Jesus. These truths are inseparable. Therefore, to dismiss even a single verse of the Bible tarnishes our view of God.
For example, we cannot hold onto God’s love without also proclaiming his wrath. Heresies are any teaching which will keep another from salvation through Christ. This is in contrast to bad doctrine which is something that doesn’t necessarily keep another from salvation, but it certainly leads them to misunderstandings of proper life in Christ.
Heretical teachers, though profiting in this world, will receive swift destruction when they face God. Unfortunately, those who follow heretics will be swept away with them. This is why knowing and properly handling your Bible is of eternal value. God doesn’t force Himself upon mankind. Rather, He expects us to reasonably and intelligently pursue Him and His expectations for us.
O God, how can we know if what we hear is true? By standing firm on Your word! Keep us filled with the strong and lasting desire to read, study, and remember what the Bible proclaims. For by it, we have an understanding of Jesus. And through Him, we have an understanding of You. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Bible. Amen.