Spiritual Growth: (#2) Need/Opponents

The book of 2 Peter puts a premium on knowledge.  The word knowledge appears in some form 16 times in this book.

Why such an emphasis and value on knowledge?  One source provides this answer, “Just as 1 Peter warned of the threat to the church from the outside, namely persecution, 2 Peter suggests a more subtle, but no less dangerous threat from the inside, namely false teaching… If the antidote to persecution in the first epistle is hope, the answer to heresy in this, the second epistle, is knowledge” (Editor, Don Shackleford, New Testament Survey by the Faculty of Harding University School of Religion, p. 431). 

2 Peter 2 mentions three opponents of spiritual growth.  Let us notice…

  1.  False teachers

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…” (2 Peter 2:1).

In the first clause, Peter reminds the reader that there were false prophets in the Old Testament.  An example is Balaam (2 Peter 2:15).  Balaam “taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14). 

The first clause is closely connect with 2 Peter 1:20-21.  Guy N. Woods comments, “The word ‘but’ with which this verse begins put it in contrast with matters dealt with at the close of the preceding chapter.  There the apostle had emphasized the fact that the prophetic word is a product of inspiration… Lest from this his readers should conclude that all who affected to be prophets were thus influenced, he hastened to add… false prophets had risen to lead the people astray (Deuteronomy 14:1-5; Isaiah 9:15; Jeremiah 14:14; Ezekiel 13:3; Zechariah 13:4)” (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John and Jude, p. 163). 

In the second clause, Peter considers the present age.  He affirms that there also would be false teachers during the New Testament age.  Other writers also warn of this (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 John 4:1; Jude 4, etc.).

In the third clause, Peter describes the work and fruit of these false teachers.  They sometimes work “secretly.”  The word (pareisago) literally means “to bring in beside… Strabo, a Greek historian… uses the word of enemies introduced secretly into a city by traitors within” (Vine’s) their teachings are described as “destructive heresies.”  It is destructive because it leads to spiritual destruction.  Being taught wrong is not an excuse (Genesis 3; 1 Kings 13; Jeremiah 5:31; Matthew 15:14; 23:15; Galatians 5:4, 7; 2 Peter 2:19-21, et. al.).  It is heresies because it is opposed to “the way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2) and produces unnecessary and unscriptural division (cf. Romans 16:17; Jude 19). 

Biblical knowledge is helpful to overcoming false teaching.  It helps one “discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).  It helps one not to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). 

2.  Desires

By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:3).

False teachers exploit by covetousness.  The word covetousness (pleonexia) literally means “a desire to have more” (Vine’s).  It is sometimes used of material possessions (e.g. Luke 12:15).   It is sometimes used of fleshly desires (e.g. Ephesians 4:19).

False teachers are sometimes motivated by covetousness.  This was true in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 6:13-14; 8:10-11; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11).  It is likewise true today.  Paul writes of those, “teaching things which they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:11 cf. 1 Timothy 6:5).  He also writes of those “whose god is in their belly” (Philippians 3:19). 

Furthermore, false teachers sometimes draw people by appealing to their desires: (1) Desires of the flesh or the lust of the flesh.  “They allure through the lust of the flesh, through lewdness…” (2 Peter 2:18).  They “turn the grace of our God into lewdness…” (Jude 4).  (2) Desires of ego or the pride of life.  Jude writes of those, “flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 16).  Paul writes of some, who “by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18).  (3) Desires of the ears.  The desires of the people shaped the message of false prophets in the Old Testament (e.g., Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 5:31; 6:13-14; 8:10-11).  This occurs in the New Testament, as well.  Consider: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  The reason many are attracted to false doctrine is because they do not love the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11).

Since it is the case that not all who claim to be preaching God’s truth are actually doing so, one should seek to personally know God’s word.  What one hears should be tested by the word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). 

3.  Self-will

“…those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.  They are presumptuous, self-willed.  They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries” (2 Peter 2:10).

Of whom does this refer?  These words seem to describe the false teachers which Peter has in view (cf. 2 Peter 2:12, 18; Jude 8, 16). 

They are described as: (1) Presumptuous (tolmetes).  The word means, “daring… shameless and irreverent” (Vine’s).  (2) self-willed (authades).  The word means “‘self-pleasing’… denotes one, who dominated by self-interest, and inconsiderate of others, arrogantly  asserts his own will, ‘self-willed’” (Vine’s).  (3) Not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.  By comparing 2 Peter 2:10-11 with Jude 8-9, it seems that they speak from their own authority and not the Lord’s, and they have contempt for those in authority. 

I want to focus in on “self-willed.”  This is a great opponent to spiritual growth.  Jesus taught, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  He prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no long I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

Do we really want to know and do His will?  Or is it about what we want?  Be honest!  

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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