2 Peter 2: The Danger of False Teachers
2 Peter 2 is one of the most enigmatic chapters in all of Scripture. Peter begins with a list of God’s proven judgments against evil (2 Peter 2:1-8), concluding that God is always capable of rescuing the righteous and sending judgment to the sinner (2 Peter 2:9-11). He concludes the chapter with what can only be described as an impassioned rant against the wicked (2 Peter 2:12-19) and a reminder of the severity of falling away from the faith (2 Peter 2:20-22).
A Proven Judge
As I read through 2 Peter 2, I cannot help but wonder what specific instance has gotten Peter into this place of righteous anger. He is fully right to be angry about the influence of false teachers and the fullness of his holy fury gets laid out on the page before us.
Peter begins with this reminder that God is a proven judge. He has judged the angels, he judged the ancient world, he judged Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is coming as judge again. This is meant to be a terrifying statement to all those who stand condemned. Here is a God who is great in mercy and whose patience is long, yet whose judgment is inevitable. Just because God’s judgment will come in the future is not license to sin in the present.
But to the believer, Peter’s statement is a soothing balm, the satiation of years of injustice and persecution. It is a reminder that evil will not always triumph over good and that God will ultimately prevail. To Peter’s listeners, groaning under persecution, this message is a helpful reminder that God is just and his justice will be enacted. It is also a warning to false teachers within the church that God sees their wrongdoing and will judge them for it.
A Compromised Gospel
The second half of 2 Peter 2 is probably the longest rant against evildoers since Jesus’ woes upon the Pharisees speech. The portrait that Peter paints is not pleasant. These are individuals who have come into the church and sought to bring in pagan influences and pagan heresies. They have sought to do away the Gospel and make it something else, and Peter categorically cannot stand for that.
Two thousand years later, his message—though harsh and blunt—rings true for the church today. But today, we do not have pagan heresies or pagan influences. Our heresies and influences are much more subtle. Our culture. Social status. The fear of change. The fear of standing firm. Commercialism. Consumerism. The list goes on.
We cannot compromise on the Gospel. But if we do, we will be judged. If we reform our churches into our image, rather than allowing our churches to transform our image, we will be judged. Peter’s harsh words are ones we should scrutinize carefully to ensure that they do not apply to us today. Have we as the church sought compromise with the world? If so, then judgment is coming. And judgment is just.
Judge of all the Earth, do right. Enact justice. Enable mercy. Show us your grace. We pray for your judgment of the world systems even as we plead grace for ourselves. Lead us into paths of righteousness. Keep us from evil and compromise.
How is the Gospel compromised and co-opted today? Are we guilty of this error?
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