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THE SECOND EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 2 - Verse 1

 

CHAPTER II.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

THE general subject of this chapter is stated in the first verse, and it embraces these points:

(1.) that it might be expected that there would be false teachers among Christians, as there were false prophets in ancient times;

(2.) that they would introduce destructive errors, leading many astray; and,

(3.) that they would be certainly punished. The design of the chapter is to illustrate and defence these points.

I. That there would be such false teachers the apostle expressly states in 2 Pe 2:1; and incidentally in that verse, and elsewhere in the chapter, he notices some of their characteristics, or some of the doctrines which they would hold.

(a.) They would deny the Lord that bought them, 2 Pe 2:1. See Barnes "2 Pe 2:1".

 

(b.) They would be influenced by covetousness, and their object in their attempting to seduce others from the faith, and to induce them to become followers of themselves, would be to make money, 2 Pe 2:3.

(c.) They would be corrupt, beastly, and licentious in their conduct; and it would be one design of their teaching to show that the indulgence of gross passions was not inconsistent with religion; 2 Pe 2:10, "that walk after the flesh, in the lust of uncleanness;" 2 Pe 2:12, "as natural brute beasts;" "shall perish in their own corruption;" 2 Pe 2:14, "having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin;" 2 Pe 2:22, "the dog has returned to his own vomit again."

(d.) They would be proud, arrogant, and self-willed; men who would despise all proper government, and who would be thoroughly "radical" in their views; 2 Pe 2:10, and despise government; presumptuous are they and self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities;" 2 Pe 2:18, "they speak great swelling words of vanity."

(e.) They were persons who had been formerly of corrupt lives, but who had become professing Christians. This is implied in 2 Pe 2:20-22. They are spoken of as having "escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;" as "having known the ways of righteousness," but as having turned again to their former corrupt practices and lusts; "it has happened to them according to the true proverb," etc. There were various classes of persons in primitive times, coming under the general appellation of the term Gnostic, to whom this description would apply, and it is probable that they had begun to broach their doctrines in the times of the apostles. Among those persons were the Ebionites, Corinthians, Nicolaitanes, etc.

II. These false teachers would obtain followers, and their teachings would be likely to allure many. This is intimated more than once in the chapter: 2 Pe 2:2, "and many shall follow their pernicious ways;" 2 Pe 2:3, "and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you;" 2 Pe 2:14, "beguiling unstable souls." Comp. 2 Pe 2:18.

III. They would certainly be punished. A large part of the chapter is taken up in proving this point, and especially in showing from the examples of others who had erred in a similar manner, that they could not escape destruction. In doing this, the apostle refers to the following facts and illustrations:

(1.) The case of the angels that sinned, and that were cast down to hell, 2 Pe 2:4. If God brought such dreadful punishment on those who were once before his throne, wicked men could have no hope of escape.

(2.) The case of the wicked in the time of Noah, who were cut off by the flood, 2 Pe 2:5.

(3.) The case of Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Pe 2:6.

(4.) The character of the persons referred to was such that they could have no hope of escape.

(a.) They were corrupt, sensual, presumptuous, and selfwilled, and were even worse than the rebel angels had been—men that seemed to be made to be taken and destroyed, 2 Pe 2:10-12.

(b.) They were spots and blemishes, sensual and adulterers, emulating the example of Balaam, who was rebuked by even a dumb ass for his iniquity, 2 Pe 2:13-16.

(c.) They allured others to sin under the specious promise of liberty, while they were themselves the slaves of debased appetites, and gross and sensual passions, 2 Pe 2:17-19. From the entire description in this chapter, it is clear that the persons referred to, though once professors of religion, had become eminently abandoned and corrupt. It may not, indeed, be easy to identify them with any particular sect or class then existing and now known in history, though not a few of the sects in the early Christian church bore a strong resemblance to this description; but there have been those in every age who have strongly resembled these persons; and this chapter, therefore, possesses great value as containing important warnings against the arts of false teachers, and the danger of being seduced by them from the truth. Compare Introduction to the Epistle of Jude, & 3, 4.

Verse 1. But there were false prophets also among the people. In the previous chapter, (2 Pe 1:19-21,) Peter had appealed to the prophecies as containing unanswerable proofs of the truth of the Christian religion. He says, however, that he did not mean to say that all who claimed to be prophets were true messengers of God. There were many who pretended to be such, who only led the people astray. It is unnecessary to say, that such men have abounded in all ages where there have been true prophets.

Even as there shall be false teachers among you. The fact that false teachers would arise in the church is often adverted to in the New Testament. Compare Mt 24:5,24; Ac 20:29,30.

 

Who privily. That is, in a secret manner, or under plausible arts and pretences. They would not at first make an open avowal of their doctrines, but would in fact, while their teachings seemed to be in accordance with truth, covertly maintain opinions which would sap the very foundations of religion. The Greek word here used, and which is rendered "who privily shall bring in," (pareisagw,) means properly to lead in by the side of others; to lead in along with others. Nothing could better express the usual way in which error is introduced. It is by the side, or along with, other doctrines which are true; that is, while the mind is turned mainly to other subjects, and is off its guard, gently and silently to lay down some principle, which, being admitted, would lead to the error, or from which the error would follow as a natural consequence. Those who inculcate error rarely do it openly. If they would at once boldly" deny the Lord that bought them," it would be easy to meet them, and the mass of professed Christians would be in no danger of embracing the error. But when principles are laid down which may lead to that; when doubts on remote points are suggested which may involve it; or when a long train of reasoning is pursued which may secretly tend to it; there is much more probability that the mind will be corrupted from the truth.

Damnable heresies. aireseiv apwleiav. "Heresies of destruction;" that is, heresies that will be followed by destruction. The Greek word which is rendered damnable, is the same which in the close of the verse is rendered destruction. It is so rendered also in Mt 7:13; Ro 9:22; Php 3:19; 2 Pe 3:16— in all of which places it refers to the future loss of the soul. The same word also is rendered perdition in Joh 17:12; Php 1:28; 1 Ti 6:9; Heb 10:39; 2 Pe 3:7; Re 17:8,11

—in all which places it has the same reference. On the meaning of the word rendered "heresies," See Barnes "Ac 24:14"; See Barnes "1 Co 11:19".

The idea of sect or party is that which is conveyed by this word, rather than doctrinal errors; but it is evident that in this case the formation of the sect or party, as is the fact in most cases, would be founded on error of doctrine. The thing which these false teachers would attempt would be divisions, alienations, or parties, in the church, but these would be based on the erroneous doctrines which they would promulgate. What would be the particular doctrine in this case is immediately specified, to wit, that they "would deny the Lord that bought them." The idea then is, that these false teachers would form sects or parties in the church, of a destructive or ruinous nature, founded on a denial of the Lord that bought them. Such a formation of sects would be ruinous to piety, to good morals, and to the soul. The authors of these sects, holding the views which they did, and influenced by the motives which they would be, and practising the morals which they would practise, as growing out of their principles, would bring upon themselves swift and certain destruction. It is not possible now to determine to what particular class of errorists the apostle had reference here, but it is generally supposed that it was to some form of the Gnostic belief. There were many early sects of so-called heretics to whom what he here says would be applicable.

Even denying the Lord that bought them. This must mean that they held doctrines which were in fact a denial of the Lord, or the tendency of which would be a denial of the Lord, for it cannot be supposed that, while they professed to be Christians, they would openly and avowedly deny him. To "deny the Lord" may be either to deny his existence, his claims, or his attributes; it is to withhold from him, in our belief and profession, anything which is essential to a proper conception of him. The particular thing, however, which is mentioned here as entering into that self-denial, is something connected with the fact that he had "bought" them. It was such a denial of the Lord as having bought them, as to be in fact a renunciation of the peculiarity of the Christian religion. There has been much difference of opinion as to the meaning of the word Lord in this place—whether it refers to God the Father, or to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word is despothvdespotes. Many expositors have maintained that it refers to the Father, and that when it is said that he had bought them, it means in a general sense that he was the Author of the plan of redemption, and had caused them to be purchased or redeemed. Michaelis supposes that the Gnostics are referred to as denying the Father by asserting that he was not the Creator of the universe, maintaining that it was created by an inferior being.—Intro, to New Testament, iv. 360. Whitby, Benson, Slade, and many others, maintain that this refers to the Father as having originated the plan by which men are redeemed; and the same opinion is held, of necessity, by those who deny the doctrine of general atonement. The only arguments to show that it refers to God the Father would be,

(1.) that the word used here (despothv) is not the usual term (kuriov) by which the Lord Jesus is designated in the New Testament; and,

(2.) that the admission that it refers to the Lord Jesus would lead inevitably to the conclusion that some will perish for whom Christ died. That it does, however, refer to the Lord Jesus, seems to me to be plain from the following considerations:

(1.) It is the obvious interpretation; that which would be given by the great mass of Christians, and about which there could never have been any hesitancy if it had not been supposed that it would lead to the doctrine of general atonement. As to the alleged fact that the word used (Despotes) is not that which is commonly applied to the Lord Jesus, that may be admitted to be true, but still the word here may be understood as applied to him. It properly means a master as opposed to a servant; then it is used as denoting supreme authority, and is thus applied to God, and may be in that sense to the Lord Jesus Christ, as head over all things, or as having supreme authority over the church. It occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: 1 Ti 6:1,2; Tit 2:9; 1 Pe 2:18, where it is rendered masters; Lu 2:29; Ac 4:24; Re 6:10, where it is rendered Lord, and is applied to God; and in Jude 1:4, and in the passage before us, in both which places it is rendered Lord, and is probably to be regarded as applied to the Lord Jesus. There is nothing in the proper signification of the word which would forbid this.

(2.) The phrase is one that is properly applicable to the Lord Jesus as having bought us with his blood. The Greek word is apwleian—a word which means properly to market, to buy, to purchase, and then to redeem, or acquire for one's self a by price paid, or by a ransom. It is rendered buy or bought in the following places in the New Testament: Mt 13:44,46; 14:15; 21:12; 25:9,10; 27:7; Mr 6:36,37; 11:15; 15:46; 16:1; Lu 9:13; 14:18,19; 17:28; 19:45; 22:36; Joh 4:8; 6:5; 13:29; 1 Co 7:30; Re 3:18; 13:17; 18:11, —in all which places it is applicable to ordinary transactions of buying. In the following places it is also rendered bought, as applicable to the redeemed, as being bought or purchased by the Lord Jesus: 1 Co 6:20; 7:23, "Ye are bought with a price;" and in the following places it is rendered redeemed, Re 5:9; 14:3,4.

It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is true that in a large sense this word might be applied to the Father as having caused his people to be redeemed, or as being the Author of the plan of redemption; but it is also true that the word is more properly applicable to the Lord Jesus, and that, when used with reference to redemption, it is uniformly given to him in the New Testament. Compare the passages referred to above. It is strictly and properly true only of the Son of God that he has "bought" us. The Father indeed is represented as making the arrangement, as giving his Son to die, and as the great Source of all the blessings secured by redemption; but the purchase was actually made by the Son of God by his sacrifice on the cross. Whatever there was of the nature of a price was paid by him; and whatever obligations may grow out of the fact that we are purchased or ransomed are due particularly to him, 2 Co 5:15. These considerations seem to me to make it clear that Peter referred here to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he meant to say that the false teachers mentioned held doctrines which were in fact a denial of that Saviour. He does not specify particularly what constituted such a denial; but it is plain that any doctrine which represented him, his person, or his work, as essentially different from what was the truth, would amount to such a denial. If he was Divine, and that fact was denied, making him wholly a different being; if he actually made an expiatory sacrifice by his death, and that fact was denied, and he was held to be a mere religious teacher, changing essentially the character of the work which he came to perform; if he, in some proper sense, "bought" them with his blood, and that fact was denied in such a way that according to their views it was not strictly proper to speak of him as having bought them at all, which would be the case if he were a mere prophet or religious teacher, then it is clear that such a representation would be in fact a denial of his true nature and work. That some of these views entered into their denial of him is clear, for it was with reference to the fact that he had "bought" them, or redeemed them, that they denied him.

And bring upon themselves swift destruction. The destruction here referred to can be only that which will occur in the future world, for there can be no evidence that Peter meant to say that this would destroy their health, their property, or their lives. The Greek word (apwleian) is the same which is used in the former part of the verse, in the phrase "damnable heresies." See Notes. In regard, then, to this important passage, we may remark,

(1.) that the apostle evidently believed that some would perish for whom Christ died.

(2.) If this be so, then the same truth may be expressed by saying that he died for others besides those who will be saved; that is, that the atonement was not confined merely to the elect. This one passage, therefore, demonstrates the doctrine of general atonement. This conclusion would be drawn from it by the great mass of readers, and it may be presumed, therefore, that this is the fair interpretation of the passage.

(3.) It follows that men may destroy themselves by a denial of the great and vital doctrines of religion. It cannot be a harmless thing, then, to hold erroneous opinions; nor can men be safe who deny the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. It is truth, not error, that saves the soul; and an erroneous opinion on any subject may be as dangerous to a man's ultimate peace, happiness, and prosperity, as a wrong course of life. How many men have been ruined in their worldly prospects, their health, and their lives, by holding false sentiments on the subject of morals, or in regard to medical treatment! Who would regard it as a harmless thing if a son should deny in respect to his father that he was a man of truth, probity, and honesty, or should attribute to him a character which does not belong to him—a character just the reverse of truth? Can the same thing be innocent in regard to God our Saviour?

(4.) Men bring destruction "on themselves." No one compels them to deny the Lord that bought them; no one forces them to embrace any dangerous error. If men perish, they perish by their own fault, for

(a.) ample provision was made for their salvation as well as for others; (b.) they were freely invited to be saved;

(c.) it was, in itself, just as easy for them to embrace the truth as it was for others; and

(d.) it was as easy to embrace the truth as to embrace error.

{c} "There were" De 13:1 {a} "among you" Mt 24:5; Ac 20:29,30; 1 Ti 4:1

{*} "privily" "craftily" {+} "heresies" "heresies of destruction" {++} "Lord" "Sovereign Lord"

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