2 Peter 1-3 It would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness

From 2 Peter 1-3

60 61 peter thumbToday’s passage is marked by sustained invective against a group of false prophets and teachers who are part of the early Christian communities. Peter has no respect for these people and warns the faithful away from them in the strongest possible terms. Its a scary passage that links false teaching to sin and wrongdoing.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Peter starts off the letter encouraging his audiences to pursue a string of qualities in order to make their calling and election sure. He assures them of the authenticity of their message and its inspiration. But there will be problems within the Christian churches he is addressing. False prophets and false teachers will come. Peter in this second chapter warns the faithful away from them.

2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Pet 2.1)

Peter says they will be prophets. They say they preach a word from God. They will be teachers. Teaching with a semblance of wisdom. Deceiving many, they can remain in secret.

The scary thing is they will be in church.

Strikingly the false prophets and teachers deny the ‘Master who bought them’. The slave market imagery suggests Jesus is their master. Denying him brings about their destruction.

2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Pet 2.2-3)

Peter says many will follow their sensuality. Lust? Sexual immorality? Greed? Whatever Peter means by the expression the effect is that non believers will blaspheme the way Christians live because of it.

The false prophets and teachers will take advantage of people around them by their false words. They have been condemned a long time ago. It’s only a matter of time until the sentence will be carried out.

Peter gives a series of examples of this happening before.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; (2 Pet 2:4–6)

God has judged demons, the ancient world and evil cities. Peters statements about the angels sinning are not in the bible. Clearly they are part of oral history passed down from generation to generation.

Noah lived in the ‘ancient world’ before the flood. The world was ungodly. But Noah is called a ‘herald of righteousness’. The description resembles the expression ‘heir of righteousness’ the author of Hebrews gives to him in Heb 11.7.

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by sulphur and fire from heaven (Gen 19.24,28). The passage is an exception to the rule of eternal conscious torment. The punishment here is extinction.

Peter in most cases explicitly refers to the ‘ungodly’. In every case he tells of their punishment. He will do the same to these false prophets and teachers for the evil they will commit.

But the ungodly are not the only ones in the picture.

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Pet 2:7–10)

The righteous respond to the sin around them in distress. The difference in behaviour may also cause them to be persecuted by the wicked around them.

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly and righteous from trials.

Peter is speaking to his faithful audiences whom the false teachers and prophets will be among. He uses these examples to explain God is still looking out for their welfare.

Speaking about the false prophets and teachers again he says.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. (2 Pet 2:10–13)

They speak against and criticise the ‘glorious ones’. These are the angels who in return do not speak to the Lord about what they have said against them.

Why the false prophets and teachers would say things against angels we can’t be sure. Perhaps they are speaking about angels mentioned in the Old Testament scriptures or perhaps those involved in Jesus’ birth. Either way Peter believes the angels are aware of what they are saying about them and do not act against them by pronouncing judgment before the Lord. The Lord is the one who judges. So the wicked judge the angels, but the angels hold their tongues waiting for the Lord’s judgment.

Unlike the angels, the false prophets and teachers show no restraint in speaking about what they know little about. In consequence they will be destroyed. Their destruction and punishment is linked to their own sin and wrongdoing. Just as they do wrong against others, others will wrong them and this is what they deserve.

Peter continues to show little love for them and looks forward to their punishment.

They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.

They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.

They entice unsteady souls.

They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.

They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (2 Pet 2:13–16)

The verses above are linked by a series of ‘they’s. They, they, they, they. We see something similar in Rom 1.18-32.

‘They revel in the deceptions while they feast with you.’ Peter reminds us again, these people are in the same communities he is writing to. Their feasting could be at the Lord’s supper, but I suspect it was more likely at shared church feasts.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. (2 Pet 2:17–18)

They are leading others astray. People who are ‘barely escaping from those who live in error’. Peter hints of the struggle believers have in resisting the sin of their peers, friends, family and workmates. Its a daily struggle and these people in their communities are trying to draw them back into it.

19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Pet 2:19)

They promise freedom from law, sin and ethics. But are themselves slaves of corruption (cf. Gal 5.13).

The vast difference between freedom from the law of Moses which leads to repentance from sin, obedience and good works with freedom which leads into increasing amounts of sin and debauchery is a loving relationship with the one who frees. The relationship with the living God changes everything and gives new impetus for living.

20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Pet 2:20–22)

Peter implies believers can lose their salvation and turn away from their faith.

When he sees these false prophets and teachers in Christian communities this is what he believes has happened. They have fallen from grace and abandoned the faith.

They have known the ‘way of righteousness’ but have ‘turned back from the holy commandment delivered to them’. In the gospel Jesus instructs his followers in the way they should live when they follow him. These people have abandoned his teaching and now it’s worse for them. They no longer sin in ignorance, they sin deliberately.

For Believers

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Click to enlarge

The passage presents a scary reality that Christian churches have and will at times be infected by false prophets and teachers.

Perhaps it’s worse to consider that Peter’s statements suggest they were once Christians.

People who were ‘bought by the Master’ and ‘escaped the defilements of the world through knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour’.

Here is a list of their sins Peter identifies them by;

  • False prophecy and teaching (v1)
  • Sensuality (v2), lust of defiling passion (v10), adultery (v14), entice others into sensual passions of the flesh (v18)
  • Greed (v2,14-16)
  • Despise authority (v10)
  • Blaspheme angels (v10)
  • Revel in the daytime (v13)
  • Deceive (v13), entice others (v14,18)

False prophecy and teaching will lead to these things. Their sins will mark them off from the faithful. Be wary of people who sin in your church. Be wary of their teaching. Be wary you are not of them.


Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

  • Sadly, the visible church is rife with false teachers. For the most part, the neighborhood church is no longer a spiritually safe place to attend, be built up on I most holy faith, and fellowship with others. We are in the great apostasy prophesied by Paul in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. It is very distressing. Praise God that He keeps us from the wicked one. Amen!

    https://holdingforthhisword.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/deception-in-the-church/

    May Christ richly bless you as you share His truth. Amen!