If you were with us last Sunday, you know Peter has just given us a warning about false teachers. And in today’s text, Peter goes on describing these false teachers, but also moves into perhaps the greatest destructive power of false teaching. I’m going to read 2nd Peter 2:10-22. If you’re able, please stand with me in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
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. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions,[f] while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery,[g] 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.
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. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 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.”
This is the Word of the Living God. Amen? You may be seated.
In case you haven’t noticed, Peter doesn’t like false teachers. He has quite the list of bad things to say about false teachers. What we’re looking at here is almost like a rant. Names and insults and metaphors galore. This is not a popular use of language in our day. It’s not always always appropriate or fitting. Just because we see this at times throughout Scripture does not suddenly justify using this kind of tone with everyone. But there’s a reason why Peter is ranting about false teaching. It’s because of the great danger it poses. It is truly the greatest danger: and that is the salvation of souls.
The overall message of 2nd Peter is that Christians are to make every effort to be Godly.
And the situation that Peter’s addressing is false teachers who have come in telling Christians that living Godly lives doesn’t matter. In particular, when it comes to sexual desires. It’s a false kind of freedom that they’re promising. So, Peter is warning them not to listen to them. And Peter is firm blunt because he loves God’s people! He wants to do anything he can to protect them. Especially against apostasy. What is apostasy? It’s a denial of the Christian faith. And what we have this morning, from these verses, is a recipe for apostasy. Five ingredients that lead to apostasy.
- Flippancy toward sin and dark spiritual forces (10-11).
Verses 10 and 11 are a little hard to understand. Let me read the second part of verse 10 and verse 11 again: “Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” That’s hard to understand without knowing who the “glorious ones” are. Well, context and parallel passages like in Jude reveal that these glorious ones are demons. Evil angels.
So Peter is saying that these false teachers and bold and willful, they don’t take seriously the reality of spiritual forces and influences. They dismiss the activity of evil in the world. Even angels, who are more powerful than human beings, know not to do that. That’s what Peter is getting at here.
Think about it for a moment: what we already know about these false teachers from the past few weeks? We know they are flippant about sin! They don’t think Godliness and holiness matter. So they’re flippant about sin and flippant about dark spiritual forces. If you’re wondering what flippant means, it means not serious. It’s like showing up to work late, unprepared, and maybe not even showered. What does that reveal? It reveals you don’t really care. You don’t take your job seriously, at least not that day.
Before any of us are tempted to not take sin seriously, or to dismiss it as not that big of a deal: do not forget what Christ had to do to save us from our sin. He died for your and my sin. He died to defeat the enemy, who is absolutely real. Don’t buy into this thinking today, which seems more and more pervasive, that demons aren’t real, or at least that they’re not active. Be on guard. Be aware. Don’t be flippant or dismissive about evil. Even when it comes to entertainment. It’s so easy to dive so deeply into entertainment of all kinds—television, games, even books—without taking into account the influence and pull of dark spiritual forces. That’s ingredient number 1. Number 2:
2. Boldness in ignorance (12-13)
Verses 12-13: “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, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.” Again, all of that sounds extreme, like surely none of us could ever be described in this way.
But do we not sometimes act and speak ignorantly? Perhaps pretending to know more about things than we do? Instead of being humble about that which we do not know. Particularly, maybe you know some who is always speaking about absolutely everything with complete confidence? Even things they don’t really know anything about? That’s a problem. Because none of us know all things. We’re not to speak and act out of ignorance.
I think it’s amazing the boldness he mentions over and over. They revel in the daytime, in other words shamelessly! They revel in their deceptions, almost proud of them, while they feast with you. There’s another hint that this is talking about false teachers and those who embrace false teaching in our midst. This is not just out there, it’s in here. They are blots and blemishes, which is exactly what we’re told not to be in the next chapter. 2nd Peter 3:14.
Let me just say this, as a way of warning for us: bold does not mean also mean sincere. Bold and confident does not always mean true. It’s easy to find inspiring teachers and leaders of any kind who contradict each other. A common misconception is that you can’t argue with someone who has a Ph.D. Well, they argue with each other, and one of them has to be wrong! You can find an inspiring teacher in every subject matter there is. You can be sincere and yet dead wrong. You can have Ph.D., and yet be wrong. You can have a huge following, and yet be dead wrong. Number 3. The 3rdingredient for apostasy:
3. Desires that cannot be satisfied (14).
In verse 14, Peter continues his rant, if you will. Verse 14: “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” So, obviously, they can’t control their desire for sin. That’s what “insatiable” means. It means impossible to satisfy.
Something that also catches our attention is that these false teachers “entice unsteady souls.” This is why we can’t let them be among us without something being said. We cannot have, as one commentator put it, “wolves rubbing shoulders with the sheep.” Just like these false teachers in Peter’s day, we too cannot abide this thinking, “Well, maybe that lifestyle is not that big of a deal.” “Maybe embracing a few sins is no big deal—God forgives us anyway.
This is why guarding the flock is so important! Because we need steadiness among us. We’re called to be steadfast. Steadiness is so uncommon in our culture, because so often nothing is good enough for us. We want more. More money. More power. More sex. More “freedom.” More leisure. More vacation. More luxury. So whatever gives us that, we go for that. Steadfastness should be something normal in the Christian church. Why? Because even though things need to change at times, we are deeply, deeply content in Christ. He has satisfied the deepest longing of our souls. Ingredient number 5:
4. Cluelessness on spiritual matters (15-16).
We saw that false teachers are bold in their ignorance. So they seem confident, and even like they know what they’re talking about. But the truth is—they don’t! In verses 15 and 16, Peter compares these false teachers with Balaam. The story of Balaam’s life is found in Number 22-25. The Moabites were wanting to pay Balaam to pronounce a curse on the Israelites, but God stops him multiple times. And Balaam could not figure out why he was being stopped. All he wanted to do we pronounce this curse so he could get paid. He really was like a weasel. One theologian said, “He’s one of the weasliest guys in the Bible.”
Balaam literally went astray. It was not ok to pronounce curses on behalf of God for money. Obviously, there’s a big problem with that. So Balaam kept getting stopped, and he couldn’t see why. He was clueless. The Lord had to open the eyes of the donkey and give him the ability to speak! That was the only way to get Balaam’s attention. If you haven’t read this in the book of Numbers, I would encourage you to do so! God spoke through the donkey! What we learn is that Balaam was so deceived by his straying that his donkey had more spiritual discernment than he did.
That’s what these false teachers are like. Again I ask: do we have any similarities with these false teachers? Or perhaps, do we embrace any of this false teaching? Now, this doesn’t mean we should all have immediate, great spiritual maturity. Maybe you’re a newer believer. Or maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while, but only now are you really growing in your faith and discernment. There’s nothing wrong with being spiritually immature. Please hear me say that. We were all spiritual immature at some point. There’s nothing wrong with being spiritually immature, but there is absolutely something wrong with staying spiritually immature. We’re meant to mature! We’re not to remain clueless on spiritual matters! Just like we know there’s something wrong when a baby stops developing, there is something wrong when a Christian stops maturing and developing.
5. Enslavement to the very things we preach against (17-19).
Verses 17-19 again: “These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 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. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
How many times do we hear about pastors and Christian leaders falling into moral failure? You know, it’s different, at least for me, when I know the person who fell into moral failure. I’ve known two pastors personally who no longer pastor because they fell. And I don’t want to assume that they were false teachers, or that they were 100% hypocrites. Because our goal in this is to ask ourselves how we may be more like these false teachers than we realize.
So, I don’t know where their hearts were at. But I also know that blatant moral failure does not happen in a vacuum. Giving in to sexual sin is not something that happens completely out of nowhere. There are patterns that form. There are compromises that lead to such actions.
But here’s the truth for all those who claim Christ: freedom is defined by God, not by man. To say freedom means the freedom to whatever we please—that is false freedom. If that’s what you think freedom is, you are enslaved. Why? Verse 19: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” Whatever it may be, you’re enslaved. Alcoholism, drug addiction (even prescription drugs), pornography, masturbation, greed, technology, social media, man’s praise. “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. True freedom is not living however you want to live. True freedom is living how God made you to live. And being who God made you to be. That’s where true freedom is found.
But when we are flippant about sin and evil, when we are ignorant and doing nothing to change that reality, when we have an unquenchably thirst for more, when we are clueless when it comes to spiritual matters, lacking discernment, and when we are enslaved to sin, whatever it may be—the result of putting all those ingredients together, is often apostasy.
Result: Returning to one’s own vomit (20-22).
Let me read verses 20-22 again: “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. 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. 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.’”
Before we get to what we learn from this, we need to clarify something here, at least briefly. Because, at first glance, Peter seems to be saying that someone who is part of the family of God can turn away from their faith and no longer be part of the family of God. Someone can be saved, and then turn away and no longer be saved. In fact, these verses are often used by those wishing to teach that you can lose your salvation.
I’m not going to give a full treatment of this question right now. However, I’d like to invite all of you to an equipping night this Wednesday night in Layne Hall. Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation? That’s our topic for Wednesday night. I decided to do this this morning, so this is the first time you’re hearing of it. I’ve been leading a connect group on Wednesday nights. So we’re going to meet in Layne Hall and focus on this. Come, you’ll be able to text in questions if you have them. But I’ll try to give a full treatment then.
For now, let me just say: salvation belongs to the Lord. It does not belong to us. I think it was John MacArthur who famously quipped, “If you could lose your salvation, you would.” Once you are justified, you cannot then become unjustified. Once you are saved, you cannot become unsaved. Once you’re born again, you can’t be unborn again. To give one example of the many times we see this written of in the New Testament: Romans 8:30- “Those whom God predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” There is no question that this is what Scripture teaches. But again, we’ll deal with this more in-depth on Wednesday night, including passages that can seem to say differently.
So, what do we see in verses 20-22? Well, we find one of the saddest realities of the world in which we live. The story is common, back then and certainly today. Many of you have seen these stories firsthand. For many of you, it’s your greatest burden. A son, daughter, grandchild, brother, sister, parent—who has turned away from the Christian faith. Or maybe they claim the Christian faith, but they don’t believe what Christians believe. Or they don’t live lives that biblical Christians live.
Peter even uses conversion language. In verse 20, there are those who really do seem to escape the defilements of the world. And have some sort of knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To use my one big word for the day, Peter is using phenomenological language. You don’t have to remember that word, but Peter is describing the event as any outsider would see it. This is someone, who by all human observation, is a Christian!
He’s writing of people who, at a minimum, are part of the church and have made a profession of faith. But beyond that, particularly with what’s in their hearts, genuinely—they may not truly know Christ. This brings back to mind what we saw last week, Peter writing of false teachers who rise up from among us, inside the church. Well, these too are people who are among us. They claim Christ. Or they used to claim Christ, even enthusiastically. But they were never truly part of the family of God. 1st John 2:19 describes these: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
This brings it all to a head. Why is it so crucial that we as a church be explicitly committed to fighting and denying false teaching? Because the ultimate danger is that people will not embrace Christ, truly. That’s what this is all about! Peter wants more than anything for these Christians to pursue Godliness because that’s part of what it really means to be a Christian! It is just not true that holiness is irrelevant! That God doesn’t care how we live and how we act. Of course He does! God doesn’t really care if we grow in our faith. Of course He does!
The problem, however, is that we treat baby Christians like babies for their whole lives. Imagine if we treated babies like babies their whole lives. An even worse picture: imagine if we didn’t give a newborn baby the needed care and sustenance to grow?
It’s perhaps the greatest false teaching of our day: It’s ok to remain a baby. It’s ok to be flippant about sin and dark spiritual forces. It’s ok to not take your life seriously, especially your spiritual life. It’s ok to be unestablished, like a newborn baby barely getting enough milk to survive. No, it’s not ok. Why? Because it leads to death. I’ve officiated a funeral for a newborn. And I want you to let the picture of a baby coffin sit heavily on your mind and heart this morning.
Because no matter how sad that funeral was, what’s even more sad is an unestablished so-called “Christian” who never grows and eventually leaves Christ. Why is that even sadder? Because that beautiful baby now gone has it better than the apostate who leaves the faith, never having truly been part of it. We must fight false teaching. We must foster within our hearts the same disdain Peter had for it. Why? Because the good news of the gospel, and the true freedom found in Christ—is far too valuable to let it be squandered by the enemy.