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Welcome to our gathering, our little study in the book of 2 Peter. I want to remind you continually that it’s not about 2 Peter. It’s about the revelation of the Lord in 2 Peter. We gather, not to learn the Bible, but to see the God of the Bible, and we always want to see Him.
Before we go to prayer, I would like to share a verse from Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine. That’s dissipation but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Because the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, is the reason that we can even begin to look in the Bible and expect to see Jesus. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit,” is not an option. It’s a command. It’s disobedient if we are not filled with His Spirit. How we need the Holy Spirit! So, let’s thank the Lord for that indwelling Life, and then trust Him to guide us. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You that the Spirit of God, the Life of God, lives inside of us, and we know from Your Word that it’s His pleasure to always turn our eyes to Jesus. We ask You to take the veil away, take it from our understanding, take it from our heart, take the veil away and unveil the Lord Jesus in a fresh way to us, in a Living way, and then give us the faith to embrace Christ as You show Him to us. We commit out session unto You and thank You for those You’ve brought here, and we pray that You would meet us today. I ask You again to protect Your people from anything that might be from my own mind or flesh and blood. We only want to hear from You, because only what You say, what goes out of Your mouth will not return void. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
As always, since we’ve been in 2 Peter, I’m not going to give a full review. We’re in lesson #6. I’d like to review, again, the great theme of the book and the distinctive revelation of our Lord Jesus. The theme is the last verses of the book, 2 Peter 3:17&18, “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard, so that you’re not carried away by the error of unprincipled men, and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”
As you know, these are the dying words of Peter. These are the last record we have before he went to heaven. Peter, before he died, wanted to release this burden that was on his heart, and he said, “Before I go to heaven, let me remind you how important it is, grow, grow in the grace, that’s what God does, it’s undeserved, grow in grace and in the heart knowledge, the experiential knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So, that’s the first part of the theme, grow in grace, in the knowledge of Jesus. The second part is from verse 17, “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard,” and that’s the second part of the theme that runs through the book, beware, be on your guard. There are false teachers out there. There’s an enemy of your soul. So, you not only need to grow, but you need to be watchful, and you need to guard.
The reason God gives a warning, and we’ll look deeper into that this morning, is not to scare you. Some Christians think that the Christian life is continually walking on eggshells, “I’m going to have to be so careful. I might get tripped up, and I might be ensnared.” God is not trying to terrify you. We might have this idea, “Oh, I’m so weak and I’m so dumb, I might fall into some of these pits, and I’m nervous about the Christian life. I don’t want to be careless.” The warnings are given here, not to make you insecure, and to make you nervous, but to give you assurance that if you are growing in Jesus, if you are growing by the grace of God, you are safeguarded from error, all error, and in all of its subtle forms at all times. That’s what he’s trying to drive you to, to let you know that you don’t have to worry about false teachers or false teaching, if you keep your eyes on Jesus.
In that connection I love Psalm 25:15, “My eyes are continually toward the Lord. He will pluck my feet out of the net.” The reason I like that is that some Christians always have their eyes on their feet. In other words, they’re walk, “I’ve got to be careful how I walk. I have to know the path. I’ve got to find the will of God. I’ve got to keep my eyes on my feet, because I don’t want to go down the wrong path. I want to stay with the Lord.” There are others that are net conscious, and they’re so concerned about the enemy, “The enemy is so slick and so devious and so tricky and so deceptive, how am I going to escape. He’s a lot smarter than I am and he has more experience and he’s going to trip me up. I better make sure my armor is on good today,” and all of that kind of thing. They’re always looking at the devices of the enemy and the ways and method of the enemy.
There’s a more excellent way, and that’s Psalm 25:15, “My eyes are continually on the Lord. He will pluck my feet from the net.” Don’t put your eyes on your feet. Keep your eyes on the Lord and He’ll take care of your feet. You aren’t going to miss the path, and you’re not going to miss the walk, if your eyes are on the Lord. Don’t worry about the enemy. He’ll take care of the net. He’ll take care of the enemy. That verse is such a wonderful verse, “My eyes are continually on the Lord. He’ll pluck my feet out of the net.”
The distinctive revelation of Christ, every book in the Bible gives a revelation of Christ that no other book gives in the same way. The revelation of Christ in 2 Peter is stated in 2 Peter 1:19, “We have a prophetic word made more sure, to which you would do well to pay attention, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,” now here it is, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart.” The revelation of Christ in 2 Peter is the day star, the morning star, the bright and morning star.
In nature, that bright morning star, they tell us is Venus. When you get up early in the morning, you’ll see that star just before the sun rises. It’s that transition light. It’s says, “Goodbye to the evening, the night,” and then it welcomes the day. It’s the star right in between night and day. In nature that might be Venus, but in spiritual things, the Day Star is the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter is telling us in verse 19 to pay attention to the prophetic word, he’s talking the Bible, the Word that comes out of Jesus’ mouth. Pay attention, and he calls it a lamp shining in a dark place. He’s says, “Study this, pay attention to this, show yourself approved, pay attention to the Bible, until, until what, until the Day Star rises in your heart. Study the Bible, not until you know the Bible, but study the Bible until you see Jesus. Study the Bible until the Holy Spirit unveils Christ. That’s the theme, grow in the knowledge of the Lord by the grace of God and the revelation of Christ is by beholding Jesus. It answers how. How am I supposed to grow? It’s by seeing Jesus in that Book. That’s how I grow and how you grow.
In our last lesson we looked at the first part of 2 Peter 1. I call that the full development of Christian character. It began with the gift of the Holy Spirit, called faith, and that section ended with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, called love. If you missed that, we have CD’s and you are certainly welcome to pick one up and catch up on that.
We come now to 2 Peter 2, “Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and you will be safeguarded from error in all of its subtle forms.” Let me introduce chapter 2 with an expression from chapter 1. 2 Peter 1:16, Peter says, as he’s describing the transfiguration, he said, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales.” I want to lift that out of the Scripture. That expression, “cleverly devised tales.” One translation calls it, “cunningly devised tales.” I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the source New Testament by Dr. Nilan, but anyway, the translation there is, “we did not follow cleverly concocted fiction.” The KJV says, “cunningly devised fables.” Wuest translates it from the Greek word, mythos, and he just says, “cleverly devised myths.” “Cleverly devised stories,” says the NIV. The idea is that all error are just cleverly devised myths. That’s all it is because it comes from man. It’s cunningly devised fiction. It’s all a lie. It’s all a fable. Truth must be revealed by God, and if it doesn’t come from God, and comes from man, there’s probably a flaw in it someway. When it comes to teaching spiritual truth, it’s a deception. So, we need to be warned.
Sometimes when we think about error we think about the big things. We get nervous about cults, for example. Not all cults are way out there, but I’ll tell you this, and I’m telling you from my own heart, if your eyes are not on the Lord, you’re vulnerable to things that are way out there. I think you might be familiar with that cult called “The Peoples’ Temple”, and maybe you remember it in terms of Jim Jones. How could somebody get wrapped up in that? And yet, we can be delivered. Or Heaven’s Gate, remember 1997 there was a whole group of people that were told that there was a comet going by, Halebop, and they needed to catch a ride on that comet, so they all killed themselves, so they could not miss the comet. You say, “Well, I would never get involved in something like that.” May I just tell you, your natural heart is a cult’s heart. My natural heart is a cult’s heart. Chances are that most Christians aren’t going to fall into something that obvious. Or like the Branch Davidians, you remember Texas.
Some are more subtle, like Scientology, and it appeals to the mind, and if you’re intelligent. Or the Way International. I don’t know if you are familiar with that. The reason I know about that one is that there was a dear brother in Christ, and he was delivered, and we had a lot of real close relationship, and I saw the deliverance that God gave him. They don’t believe Jesus is God. When he finally came to the Lord, he said, “I have an advantage over you, because I knew Jesus before He was God.” I said, “I’m not sure you’re correct on that.”
All religious works, anything that’s not revelation from God can lead you astray. My stepdad came from Thomaston, Connecticut, and there was a guy running around there called Brother Julius. He claimed to be the brother of Jesus. I had a hard time with my stepdad trying to get him not to go listen to that guy. One time he got arrested for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike, so you all better watch out because he jumped on the hood and cursed the Turnpike. There are some weird things out there. You say, “Well, I’d never fall for that.” Then you don’t know your heart without Jesus, and I don’t know my heart without Jesus.
Peter is not dealing with that kind of way-out cult. He includes it all. It includes New Age, it includes humanism and animism, and even that which we call the occult – Satanism and witchcraft and all that kind of thing. Any religion that is depending on man and depending on works, all error. It’s easy to identify when it’s clearly marked out, like if it contradicts this book. Mormonism is a cleverly devised myth. Jehovah’s Witness is a cleverly devised lie. Christian Science is a cleverly devised error. Unitarian is a false system, a concocted fiction, and it’s easy to identify, if it goes against this book. But sometimes it’s a little more subtle and you’re not sure.
The errors Peter is addressing are the teachers that are not saved. There can be saved people that fall into error. That’s not what’s being dealt with here. I’m not saying you won’t be delivered from that error, too, if your eyes are on the Lord, if you’re growing in Christ. You are delivered from all error. No doubt some Christians fall into teaching that is not lined up with the Holy Spirit. For example, all legalism is error, and yet there are some real earnest believers who have legalism in their heart. I wouldn’t doubt, and I’ll only know as I’m delivered from legalism, I’ll realize I had it. Sometimes I don’t even think I have it, and then He sets me free and I say, “Thank You, Lord.”
Some people become very dogmatic about things that they are just guessing, like the end times. There’s a lot of prophetic error out there, and others line up with imperfect systems of theology. If we’re growing in grace, undeserved, and in the heart knowledge of the Lord Jesus, we are going to be safeguarded by any false statement made by a true believer or any unbeliever. Often, I pray, and I did this morning, that God would protect you from anything that I might say that’s flesh and blood that comes my own mouth and from my own experience. Peter is different. Peter is focusing on unsaved false teachers. They had crept into the church and crept into the body of Christ. These people are not believers. All evangelical Bible commentaries make a big point about 2 Peter 2 and the book of Jude. They are very much alike. In fact, some say that Peter copied Jude. Others say that Jude copied Peter. I wonder why the Holy Spirit couldn’t have said the same thing twice to two different people. I know the similarities. If you read Jude and 2 Peter 2 a lot of it is even word for word the same.
Let me give you an example from Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Verse 3 says that Jude wanted to and tried to, sat down and attempted to write a book like Romans. He wanted to write about common salvation, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let him, and the Holy Spirit guided him. He didn’t guide him to say, “Copy Peter.” He didn’t say that. He gave him the truth. One difference is that Peter wrote to a special group. You remember the persecuted Christians, scattered Christians from Pontius and Galatia and Cappadocia and Asia and Bithynia. Jude didn’t address that group. Jude 1, “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved of God the Father, kept for Jesus.” Jude wrote to all Christians. Peter wrote to a special group of Christians. So, I’m not sure they copied one another, but there are similarities.
When you read 2 Peter 2, and that was one of the problems I had preparing my heart, because I always want to give you Jesus and I always want to be positive. When I came to chapter 2, that’s a rather negative chapter, and I thought, “How in the world am I going to teach this negative chapter in a positive way?” Well, I can tell you that it’s the negative side of grace. In other words, one evidence that you are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ is that you are going to recognize false teaching when it comes, and you’ll take a rugged stand against it. That’s one price you’re going to pay if you’re serious about growing in Jesus. You’re going to have to take a strong stand, a rugged stand against error, and error is going to take a strong stand against you. You’re not only going to have to oppose, but you’re going to be opposed, if you’re growing in Christ.
We’re going to look in some detail at chapter 2, but I want to begin by calling attention to how the chapter begins and how the chapter ends. The chapter begins in chapter 2:1 with a problem for some Christians, and the chapter ends, chapter 2:20-22, with a problem for some Christians. It begins with a problem, and it ends with a problem. I would like to get those problems out of the way before we look at the chapter.
Earlier I told you that Peter is referring to those who are not believers. They are not saved, and they are not going to heaven. That fact solves the problem at the beginning of the chapter, and that fact solves the problem at the end of the chapter. So, I’m going to give you the solution first, what is in between the beginning and the end, which is the solution to what comes at the beginning and at the end.
There’s no doubt that Peter is referring to those who are lost and heading to judgment. I’m going to quote some verses now, and sometimes I won’t quote the whole verse. I’ll just lift an expression out of the verse. The verses we’re about to quote are all designed to show you that these are not Christians. All these verses are designed to show you that these people do not know the Lord. As Jude says, “They are devoid of the Spirit.” That means that they do not have the Spirit of God.
2 Peter 2:1, “False prophets arose among the people, and there will be false teachers among you bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” That swift destruction is a clue that they don’t know the Lord. Verse 3, “Their judgment from long ago is not idle; their destruction is not asleep.” They are not believers. The Holy Spirit chooses four illustrations from the Old Testament, and says, “This is like this.” The first illustration is in verse 4, “If God did not spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness reserved for judgment,” these people are like the angels that fell. They aren’t going to heaven. And then the second illustration is the sinful world in Noah’s day, “He did not spare the ancient world,” verse 5, “but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.” These people are like the unbelieving people in Noah’s day, and a flood came on the ungodly. The third illustration is Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Peter 2:6, “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes.” You get the idea as you go through this, these people don’t know the Lord. They are like the angels that sinned, and they’re like the sinners in Noah’s day, they’re like the sinners that were reduced to ashes in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then verse 9, “The Lord know how the rescue the Godly from temptation and keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.” They are under punishment for the day of judgment. And then the fourth illustration from the Old Testament is Balaam in verse 14 & 15, he begins it with, “Accursed children, forsaking the right way, they’ve gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” All of those verses are just my attempt to show you that the teachers and the error that Peter is dealing with are coming from mouths of those who do not know the Lord.
I told you that Jude is also addressing the same group of unsaved teachers. Jude 4, “Certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” They are not believers. Jude 5, “The Lord, after having saved the people out of the land Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude also mentions the sinning angels and the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the sinful world in Noah’s day. He adds a couple. He makes reference to Cain and Korah from the Old Testament. Jude 13, “Wandering stars for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Jude gives a summary, and I want you to pay attention please, just to the word “ungodly.” Jude 14 & 15, “It was also about these men that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds by which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” I think you get the idea of ungodly.
I just want to call attention again that these people are not Christian, swift destruction. Their destruction is not asleep, like the angels, hell, pits of darkness, preserved for judgment, like the sinners in Noah’s day, Sodom and Gomorrah, accursed children, black darkness, wandering stars – you get the idea. Again, I need to remind you that Peter is not talking about the false teaching of Christians, because Christians, as they’re working their way as they’re growing, as they’re trying to formulate theology, they can get mixed up and they can be led into a certain path. I’m not suggesting, again, that we’re not safeguarded from that. We are, but those who were threatening in Peter’s day were enemies from hell.
One of the deceptions, and I don’t think anyone in this room believes this, but one of the deceptions is Satan himself. Don’t get the idea that he has horns and that he’s carrying a pitchfork. That’s a cleverly devised fable. 2 Corinthians 11:13, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it’s not surprising if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness whose end will be according to their deeds.” That’s how they snuck into the church. They were masquerading as Christians, and as children of light. Jude 19, “These are the ones who cause division, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit.” They do not have the life of God. Peter, by simply stating this, he’s not making a big issue of the problem at the beginning of the chapter. Others have made a big issue of the problem at the beginning of the chapter. He’s not making a big issue about the problem at the end of the chapter, but through the years others have made a big deal about that problem. He just states the truth, that these are unbelievers and here’s the facts.
Let me give you the correction that knowing these teachers are not saved, makes on the error, the problem some Christians have. 2 Peter 2:1, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,” now here’s the problem, “even denying the master who bought them.” That corrects an overstatement of truth made by some of our Calvinistic brothers and sisters in Christ. They summarize their whole theological creed with an acrostic on the word TULIP, and Peter addresses the “L” in the word TULIP. Their doctrine is limited atonement. That’s what they call limited atonement. Here is their explanation of limited atonement; what limits the atonement of Christ, and their answer is it’s election. If you are not elect, Jesus didn’t die for you. If I’m not elect, that is, chosen from God from eternity, then Jesus, they say, didn’t die for me. There are multitudes who will never get saved, and they explain that by saying that it’s because they were never chosen, they were never elect. If they were elect, He would have died for them, because John 10:11 says, “Who did He die for?” “I’m the Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” That’s who He died for, and then they quote Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” He dies for the church. He died for the sheep.
Before we look at the passage that corrects that overstatement, I just need to remind my heart and yours that the real enemy are not your brothers and sisters in Christ. They are not the enemy. Just because someone holds a different view than you hold or that I hold or that we hold, that doesn’t make them the enemy. Be careful. You don’t want to mock those who disagree with you or hold some position you deem as wrong or illogical, or in some cases squirrely, they’re holding some squirrely idea.
I take a strong stand against this misstatement of limited atonement, that they say that election limits atonement. But having said that, I appreciate where they’re coming from. They’re jealous of the sovereign God of grace. That’s not bad. They don’t want to rob God of His glory. If salvation is of God, then they say that man can have no part in it. If he’s dead to sin, he can’t choose. If he’s dead in sin, he can’t seek the Lord. They’re battling this idea that some have, that God loves you and He’s cast His vote for you. Satan hates you, and he’s cast his vote against you. You have the deciding vote. Well, they don’t like that idea because then salvation depends upon you. If you have the deciding vote, how can salvation depend upon a sinful man, his vote, his choice, his decision? Even if man has a small part, they reject that. In their defense they are also defending the efficacy of the blood of the Lord Jesus. If He died for everybody, then why isn’t everybody saved? Does His blood not have power to save everybody? Are you trying to say that He shed His blood for sinners, and some sinners can’t find forgiveness because they’re not chosen, because they’re not elect. So, you’ve got to see their heart. They’re insisting on the sovereignty of God and the grace of God. They are believing that the blood of Christ will accomplish everything He set that blood out to accomplish, and they can’t reconcile those things in any other way than saying that His atonement is limited by election. That’s what they say. He died for His people. He died for His church. He died for His sheep. He died for His choice. He died for His elect.
But then we read 2 Peter 2:1 again, “false prophets,” and we know where they’re going. They aren’t going to heaven. They are unsaved, “who also arose among the people, false teachers will be among you, secretly introducing destructive heresy,” now here it is, “even denying the Master who bought them.” He bought them, and they’re not saved. He died for them, and they’re not saved. We know they’re lost and we know that they are unsaved and we know they’re heading for a Christless eternity, and yet they’re bought. When were they bought? The answer is it was on the cross. And what was the price? The answer is that it was the precious blood of the Lord Jesus.
As I said, there is an element of truth in their overstatement. They say, “limited atonement,” limited by election. I think the truth is limited atonement, limited by faith. That’s the limit on atonement. Those who believe will be saved. I can’t say unlimited atonement, if I mean He died for everyone, I can say it, but if I say unlimited atonement, then I’m a universalist, and then everyone will get saved. They say that a sinner can’t will, can’t choose, can’t decide. Then they quote a verse like John 1:12&13, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And they quote Romans 9:16, “So, then, it does not depend on the man who wills, or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
This is what we dealt with last week. Can a man will? No, but he can be willing to be willing. He can be willing to choose. He can have a desire. Or as our brother this week preached, he can have the choice. God gives him a desire, and if he has that desire, God will then take that desire, unveil Christ, and he’ll see it and God will give him faith, and he will enter into the life of Christ. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Whosoever will, may come. The gospel invitation is for everybody, otherwise it’s a mockery, to invite somebody to a party, and then say, “Oh, I’m sorry, you weren’t chosen to come. That’s a mockery. Don’t lay that at the feet of the Lord Jesus. That would be an illegitimate invitation. If you are inviting all, the all are free to come. So, that is the element of truth in limited atonement. It’s limited, but not by election. It’s limited by faith. If you say it’s unlimited, then again as I said, you’re into Carl Barth and you’re into this idea that Jesus died for everybody and everybody is saved, and then he said, this is Carl Barth, “Some realize it in this life. How wonderful! Some won’t realize it until after they die, but everybody is saved. He says that the reason He gives warnings, He doesn’t mean it when He warns you about hell and judgment. The reason He gives warning is because He wants you to discover it in this life and not wait until after you die. Then you can enjoy it now and then.
Before I leave this first problem that has been solved by knowing they have not been saved, and yet Christ died for them, let me just remind you, as a believer, everything you have spiritually is by imputation. If you aren’t familiar with that word, it means that because it’s true of Jesus, it’s true of you. You say, “I’m a Son of God.” Do you know why you are a Son of God? It’s because He’s the Son of God, and you’re in Him. You say, “I’m an overcomer.” Do you know why you’re an overcomer? It’s because He has overcome the world and you are in Him. He is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. You have His righteousness. We say justification, just as if I never sinned. That’s only half of it. The other half is just as if I’d always been Jesus. You have His righteousness. It’s imputed.
Do you realize that the only one in the Old Testament, the first one that is called “elect, chosen,” is Messiah? Isaiah 42, and I know this is true because in chapter 12 of Matthew Jesus quotes this whole passage and applies it to Himself. Isaiah 42:1, “Behold My servant whom I uphold, My chosen One, my elect, in whom My soul delights. I put My Spirit upon Him, and He’ll bring justice to the nations.” KJV actually translates it “elect.” You say, “I wonder if I’m elect. I wonder if I’m chosen.” Jesus is elect, and you’re in Him, and you’re elect. It’s imputed. Jesus is righteous, and I’m in Him and I’m righteous. Jesus is an overcomer, and I’m in Him and I’m an overcomer. You are elect. That is a term of endearment. I call this sweet lady “my Lillian,” and that’s my term of endearment. God has a term for you, “My elect.” He calls you that because it’s a precious term, and not because in some eternity past He chose some to be His children and others to be firewood. That never happened, and that is not His heart.
Let’s look at the same kind of problem at the end of the chapter. It’s amazing to me and a little ironic that the first part of the chapter really addresses an overstatement by the Calvinist. The end of the chapter addresses a problem which is an overstatement by the Armenian. It’s exactly the opposite. 2 Peter 2:20, “For if after they’ve escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It happened to them according to the true Proverb, “A dog returns to his own vomit, and a sow after washing returns to wallowing in the mud.”
Those who are inclined to the overstatement of the teaching of James Armenius look at this passage and say, “Do you see how clear this is? It’s possible to trust the Lord and then lose your salvation. It’s possible to trust the Lord, look at verse 20, ‘These people were once saved, and they had escaped the corruption of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,’ so they must have been saved. Then to back it up they quote Hebrews 6:4, “In the case of those who have once been enlightened, they’ve tasted the heavenly gift, they’ve been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, they’ve tasted the good Word of God, the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away. It’s impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucified to themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.” They say, “Can words be more clear than that; they’ve been enlightened and have tasted the good Word of God and they’ve tasted the power of the age to come. Isn’t that proof that they were once saved, once believers?”
Not at all. Now, I’m going to give you a personal testimony. It is sort of sad on our side, and then I’m going to go to the Scriptures, so that I’m going to show you what I think is not an overstatement of the truth. The testimony is about my stepdad’s mother. It was about her. She was a Unitarian and she always wanted to argue religion, and when I went to visit, I didn’t like that, but this one day I felt in my heart that maybe the Lord is working. So, we had a conversation and my Lillian joined me in this conversation. Toward the end of the conversation she said, “Let me repeat what I think you are saying. Let me hear if I’m hearing you right. You’re saying that I am a sinner and I deserve to be separated from God for all eternity. And then you’re saying that God loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to take my place, so that He would suffer what I deserved, and I won’t have to suffer. Then, if I understand you, you’re saying that all He wants from you is to be thankful, to open your heart and thank Him and just allow Him to have entrance, invite Him to be Savior.” We were thrilled and were so thrilled. She couldn’t possibly have understood that unless God the Holy Spirit showed her that. He had to open her eyes. Nobody could understand that. The Bible says that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit. They’re spiritually discerned. And then she said, “Did I get it right? I reject that! Are you kidding me? If there is a God, I don’t owe Him anything, and if I owed Him something, I’ve been brought up to pay my own debts. I don’t want charity from anybody, even from God. I will pay my own debts.”
Let me ask, did she taste of the Holy Spirit? Did He open her eyes? Did He give her understanding? That doesn’t mean she accepted it. She rejected that. My Lillian left the room in tears. We were shocked that she could have such an understanding, and then take such a stand against it. Shortly after that she went senile. She lost her mind. Every time I would come into the room, she would gaze at me and say, “Do you remember that talk we had about religion a long time ago?” And then she’d be seeing kittens on the ceiling. She’d be gone again. Every time she would say, “Do you remember that conversation?”
God hasn’t given me the privilege to look into the Lamb’s book of life. I’m not going to suggest, I don’t know her heart and I don’t know what happened at the end. I’m not going to judge her, or Lord help me, I’m not going to judge anybody’s heart. I have enough problem making sure my heart is right. But I’m trying to illustrate that this overstatement, the fact that Peter goes into great detail telling you that these people were never saved, and then he describes it. They may have tasted, they may have had their eyes opened, but these people were not willing to be willing, and they were unsaved.
It’s pretty amazing to me. We’ve got some dear friends and family who lean on the other side, “You can lose your salvation,” and they always want to discuss eternal security. The doctrine of eternal security never secured a fly. God is our keeper. He secures us. But they aren’t really very far off. You see, on the one side they said, “They lost it,” and on the other side we say, “They never had it.” They end up in the same place, you know. So, we need to find common denominator truth in order to fellowship with all those who name the name of Christ.
I think one of the clearest passages on this is 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us. They went out so that it would be shown that they are not all of us.” A Christian continues to the end. Matthew 10:22, do you remember what Jesus said? “You’ll be hated by all because of My name. The one who endures to the end will be saved.” You say, “Well, that sounds like a condition.” It’s not. It’s a description. It’s not a condition. He’s not saying, “The condition is that you endure.” He’s not saying that. He’s saying, “Who is a Christian? A Christian is one who loves the Lord, one who loves the Bible and sees Jesus in the Bible and loves one another, who loves the world, who endures to the end.” That’s a description of the Christian. The false teachers in 2 Peter 2 did not have a saving relationship with Christ. They were never His sheep, and that’s why the chapter ends in verse 22, “A dog return to his vomit, a sow after washing returns to wallowing in the mire.” They were never sheep. They were always dogs. They were always pigs. They were always the sow. They didn’t lose their salvation. They never had it.
Anyway, that’s a lengthy introduction to chapter 2. This morning I handed out two sheets and I’m going to ask you to glance at that one sheet describing the ways of the false teachers. Again, we’re not safeguarded by knowing the characteristics of false teachers. We’re safeguarded by growing by grace in the knowledge of Christ, a heart knowledge of Christ. As we close, let me suggest, and there may be more than three, but let me suggest three observations I made, why God may have included this chapter in the Bible.
#1 God wants us to know that in all of our growing, we will never outgrow the need to be warned. No matter how much you know Jesus, how far you’ve come, you need to be warned. Listen to 2 Peter 1:12, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them and have been established in the truth, which is present with you.” Did you notice that Peter is addressing those who know the truth and who have been established in the truth? This warning is not for new believers. This is for those who know the truth and have been established in the truth. The warnings of God are every bit as precious as the promises of God. I’ve heard Christians testify, “I claim the promises of God.” I have never heard anyone stand up and say, “I want to thank God for the precious warnings. I praise God for the warnings.” I think that we should praise Him as much for the warning. 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” I’ll tell you this, if I think I’ve arrived, I’m in big trouble. If you think you’ve arrived, you’re in big trouble. You will never outgrow your need to be warned. Don’t doubt for a moment. We get this idea that some of these people are way off base and so on. At any moment when I take my eyes off Jesus, I am capable of doing anything any unsaved person is capable of doing, and my natural heart is the heart of a Mormon. My natural heart is a Jehovah’s Witness heart. My natural heart is a Christian Science heart. My natural heart is a Unitarian’s heart. My natural heart is a religious heart. All of the religions that come from man… When I’m growing in grace and growing in Christ, I’m safe from all of this error, I’m safe and delivered from false teaching.
#2 God wants to keep our eyes on Jesus. What is our hope? I told you earlier that Satan knows more than you and is stronger than you and is more devious than you and has more experience than you. What is my hope? How am I going to avoid false teaching? I’m so glad for the example that he gives in this chapter, and I’m talking about Lot. I would have put Balaam in heaven and Lot in hell, but God turned that whole thing around, and He says that Lot was a Christian. When I read the Old Testament, Lot doesn’t look too good. Balaam looked pretty good from the Old Testament, but Lot didn’t. Lot was in a dangerous place in his body, and he was in a dangerous place in his heart. That’s why I love 2 Peter 2:9, “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation.” I’ll revisit that next time, but that’s talking about Lot. I look at my life and say, “How am I going to escape error?” The Lord knows how. I love that expression, because it’s Lot. Who would have guessed how he would have been delivered? The Lord knows how to deliver you. He knows your background and He knows your situation and He knows everybody that’s involved in your life and He knows the long road you’ve come on, He knows what you’re seeking and He knows your heart. You say, “How am I going to be delivered? There is so much error out there. I’m going to fall in a hole.” I don’t know how, and you don’t know how, but I can promises you this, in the name of the Lord, the Lord knows how to deliver the godly from temptation. I’m so glad for that verse. I’ve come back to that verse over and over. I’ve come to the Lord and said, “I don’t know how to get out of this mess I got myself in,” and then I read that, “The Lord knows how.”
#3 Glance at that sheet, please. If you look at the characteristics of the false teacher, I’m going to name a few, not name them all. You can read them. They’re underhanded, they’re deceptive, they’re covetous, they’re proud, they’re mockers, they’re fleshly. Those are the ways of the false teacher. I hope the Lord can communicate what I’m trying to communicate now, and that is that as I approach this chapter, “I want to be kept from the teaching of false teachers,” and now I’m saying that in order to be kept from the teaching of false teachers, God must keep me from the ways of the false teachers. To the degree that any of those characteristics of pride, materialism, carnality, deception, legalism, love of money – any of that in your heart? Any of that in my heart? Then you aren’t looking to Jesus. Those are not the characteristics, the manifestations of the life of Christ.
Let me wrap it up with a quote from the prophet Jeremiah. Because of sin, God was chastening His people, and He said, “Because of your sin, I’m going to bring you into Egypt, and because of your sin I’m going to bring you into Assyria, and because of your sin I’m going to bring you into Babylon, and the people said, ‘We don’t want to go to Egypt, and we don’t want to go to Assyria.” Listen to the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 2:18, “’What are you doing on the road to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile. What are you doing on the road to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates? Your own wickedness will correct you. Your apostasies will reprove you. Know, therefore, and see that it’s an evil and bitter thing for you to forsake the Lord your God. The dread of Me is not in you,’ declares the Lord God of Hosts.’”
If you don’t want to go to Baltimore, get off the road that leads to Baltimore. If you don’t want to go to Egypt, get off the road that leads to Egypt. If you don’t want to go to Assyria, get off the road that leads to Assyria. And if you don’t want to end up in false teaching, make sure you are not on the road that leads to false teachers. These ways, these characteristics of the false teacher lead to false teaching, and to the degree they’re in my heart, to that degree I’m vulnerable to fall into some error.
I’ve heard many people say, and I’ve said it, “To God be the glory. I just want God to get the glory,” but some who say, “To God be the glory,” are not on the road leading to God getting glory. We better make sure when we say, “To God be the glory,” that we’re on the road that leads to God having the glory.
So, God gave us this chapter because we need to be warned. God gave us this chapter because it turns our eyes to Christ, and He knows how to deliver. God gave us this chapter to safeguard us against the ways of the false teachers that lead to the teachings of the false teachers. We’ll pick it up again next week.
Let me close in prayer and then we’ll continue discussing in fellowship. Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, and not what we think it means, or how we understand it. Work in our hearts everything You’ve inspired it to mean and thank You that You are our Keeper. In Jesus’ name. Amen.