2 Peter 2:1-10

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) -- if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority."

  1. Destructive Heresy. - Peter has assured us that he is a reliable teacher and preacher. He is a witness to something greater than himself. What he experienced confirms the prophecy of Scripture. It is no myth. And this matters because Peter has taught the churches and has passed on to us the truth about living godly – participating in the divine nature.

    By contrast, there are unreliable teachers. Their teaching and the foundation for their teaching is different from Peter’s. As a result, their teaching does not lead to participation in the divine nature. Rather, it encourages the impulses of the sinful nature. Their teaching is based on false conclusions and as a result there is no motivation to live a godly life.

    We dare not affix the label of false teacher too easily. We have done so with everything from forms of worship, use of church property, to the administration of funds for the poor. Ascribing the label of false teacher too casually can desensitize us to the truly destructive and unhealthy effect of bad teaching. Scripture recognizes that there are disputable matters, and conflict over disputable matters can make us very anxious. But the sort of false teaching that Peter describes is much more insidious than conflict over disputable matters. It is dangerous because it tampers with the foundation of faith (1:3-5) that is the power for godly living.

    Those whom Peter calls false teachers are doing far worse than voicing a dissenting opinion or holding to a belief without fully understanding it. Their activity and teaching is much more destructive and sinful.

    A Dangerous Alternative: A heresy is more than a different viewpoint or dissenting opinion. It is more than a measure of doubt. A heresy is a school of thought so different that it represents a alternate faction or school of thought and practice. Peter says that the false teachers have rejected or denied the God who ransomed them. That’s a serious alternative – so serious that it forms an alternate faction, or heresy – and since the foundation of truth and the power to save has been rejected, the heresy will result in destruction. Destruction and ruin are the inevitable products of this orientation toward the sinful nature, just as godliness and love are the products of the orientation toward the divine nature.

  2. God Knows How To. – Peter is taking the opportunity of his final testimony to warn believers to avoid the destruction that will result by adopting the orientation of the false teachers. To do this, he draws our attention to the "big picture." There is right and wrong not only in our everyday choices, but also on a cosmic and historical scale. Even the angels are held accountable to the rule of God and they cannot claim special privilege simply because they are from heaven. Even the people of the ancient world were held accountable to the rule of God and no one can say that the people of olden times are right simply by virtue of being part of the past. In every time and in every dimension of reality, God knows how to rescue godly people from their trials and to hold unrighteous people for punishment on the day of judgment.
    Why so hard on sin? Why is God so judgmental?

    1. The false alternatives are dangerous and destructive. They are destructive, poisonous seeds of death. They germinate into corruption.
      God's opposes the heresy with zero tolerance because such rebellion and predation must end. Wouldn’t we be against an alternative that leads to destruction ... (The ship wreckers and mooncussers – For the sake of profit, the mooncussers lured merchant ships to destruction with false lights).
    2. Redemptive Intervention. God’s judgment is actually a gracious thing. It is redemptive. Without being intolerant of destruction and divisiveness, without being intolerant of the sin there cannot be conversion and restoration. God did not establish law prophets and Jesus in order to populate hell. That is not his purpose. Judgment is an aspect of Salvation. Like an intervention. Interventions = they are intolerant because they are for the saving of one who is destroying his/her life.
      If we share in Christ’s nature, then like him we will also regard our presence in this world as redemptive. That becomes our mission.

  3. The Faithful Minority. –
    There is no virtue in damning the lost so we might be assured of our salvation. That was never Jesus’ message nor mission. We wait for Christ’s return to this world – his first coming into the world was not to condemn, but to save. His second coming will also be a saving event. He will come to restore all things as they were before the corruption of sin.

    Remember how God saved Noah and Lot? In opposing the destruction of wickedness God remained faithful to the righteous. Remember that God was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were more righteous – that’s what he promised to Abraham. Even if we are in the minority, we can be assured of God’s faithfulness and his power to rescue us from sin and unrighteousness.

    If we had a greater grasp of the awesome danger of sin and the wonderful mercy of God would they change the way we live among others; would we be more trusting of God’s power to save us and others as well?

    July 4, 1854, Charley Peace, a well-known criminal in London was hung for his crimes. The execution was performed with formal ceremony. There was a priest present who read the formal prayer prescribed for executions. As Charley was marched onto the gallows a priest read these words from his book: "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring."
    At the reading of these chilling words, Charlie Peace stopped, turned to the priest and shouted in his face, "Do you believe that? Do you believe that?"
    The priest, stunned by the verbal assault, stammered for a moment and then said, "Well I suppose do." "Well I don’t," said Charlie. "But if I did, I’d get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me."

    God forgive us for thinking that we are more righteous if we condemn rather than save. As we get pushed more and more to the margins and out of the majority we may grow angry and hopeless and that will lead us to an attitude of negative condemnation.

    God has quite a bit of experience in saving and judging. God knows what he is doing. It is his nature.

    And it is about time we started acting like "Gods knows how" and get away from the mistaken notion that we know how to do everything ourselves. We have come to understand "work out your own salvation" to mean that it is all up to us. But Peter is calling the faithful to place their confidence in God’s ability to save.

    [Ironically, if we are at all doubtful that we might be saved and certain that condemnation is all we can expect, then chances are we will act on what we are most confident about – condemnation. And we will judge others and condemn them.]

    Trust God to judge and save – that’s Peter’s gospel and it is ours, too. God knows what he is doing! All we need do is offer the light of the lamp shining in the dark. The light of the morning star.

    You don’t have to condemn before you can save others! Just this: Keep yourself in safety and snatch others from the fire (Jude 21-23). The only way we are going to be able to help save others is if we trust God to save us. If we really don’t believe what we say, then no wonder we are ineffective in calling many more to participate in the divine nature. And we certainly won’t help anyone if we ourselves do not participate in the divine nature. [If the people who follow the teachings of Christ do not demonstrate a code of ethics and behavior different from the world around them; Barna shows this is the major hindrance to Christian witness today – add citation].

Your salvation is not simply exemption from Hell. If you possess the virtues of the godly life, your life is effective and productive. It is a witness to those who might otherwise die without Christ.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 August 2004

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