Monday, 10 February 2020
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 2 Peter 2:18
Peter just used a couple of metaphors to describe what false teachers are like. Now, he explains why he chose those metaphors by explaining what their words are like. He begins with, “For when they speak.” Peter is tying their speaking in with what he just said about them. They are wells without water, and they are clouds carried by a tempest. It is their words which makes them so. Understanding this, he says of their speech, their words are “great swelling words of emptiness.”
The oratory skills of these people may be exceptional. Their presentation may be flawless. And their delivery may be without a stutter or a slur. However, the words they speak are empty. The word Peter uses is found only elsewhere in Romans 8:20 and Ephesians 4:17. It signifies “vanity” or “futility.” It is an aimless set of words strung together which lacks any sound purpose because they are transitory.
Peter then says that “they allure through the lusts of the flesh.” Rather than “through,” the Greek reads “in.” It is the sphere in which they exist, and they draw others into their realm. They are bent on presenting a message which suits their own personal lusts – be it sexual, for power, for control of others, or maybe even for attaining a perverse political agenda – whatever. Their words are directed to bring those they address into their own warped sphere of influence. Peter then says that this is done “through lewdness.”
The Greek here is much more direct. There is no preposition before “lewdness.” It is a stand-alone noun. It describes the state of the matter as it exists. Their conduct is outrageous and is a stain on public decency. And yet it is the makeup of who they are.
Peter then ties the next words in with the state of those who stalk them by saying, “the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” In these words, there is a variation between manuscripts based on very similar words. Note the difference between the two based on this variation –
“those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.” (ESV)
“the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” (NKJV)
Verse 2:14 speaks of those these people are enticing. Therefore, the likely reading is that of the ESV and others. There are some who hear their message and barely escape, and there are those who continue on in the error of the false teachers. The difference between these two seems to come down to whether they were ever truly saved or not. Those who were saved may be enticed and deluded by the false teachers, but their escape is assured, but there are those who never came to saving faith, and they continue on in error.
Life application: In presenting a false message, false teachers set up a conflict in those who have heard the gospel, encouraging them back into the exact same lifestyle that they were previously held captive in. This can be done in any way which promotes the value systems of the world.
Some speak of the gospel in terms of financial profit; some of sexual freedom; some of the blessings of promotion and power – “Yes! You too can have this desire of your heart because God wills your happiness; God wants prosperity for His children; God has forgiven you in Christ, and so you are free from condemnation, even while living in sexual sin.” There becomes no difference in the carnal desires played out in members of the church from those in the world around it.
Accountability is reduced to catchphrases, and the cross is left alone on the Place of the Skull (Golgotha) as a mere symbol to be admired from a distance – devoid of its true meaning and significance. May we never treat the work of Jesus Christ on that instrument of torture and death with anything less than our complete and undying devotion.
Lord God, our terrible plight and condition is revealed in the words of the Bible. We are, from time to time, pulled away from holy living by the temptations of power, wealth, and impurity. Renew our minds, purge our unhealthy desires, and turn our souls to wholehearted devotion to You. May we look to You and Your glorious work, and in looking, may we never forget what You accomplished for us. Amen.