Lesson 12 - 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 17-23 - DANGERS TO CHRISTIANS
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in 2 Peter 1:12-21, as a counterpoint to the heresies of false teaching that were creeping into churches, we heard Peter call his readers to "remember" the foundations of their faith. Rather than try to directly refute what the false teachers claimed, the apostle's stratagem was to remind his Christian audience of the "things...you already know." He issued two broad truths that form the very bed rock of our Christian faith: (1) The foundation of our faith rests on the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ. The identity of Jesus as the Son of God and the anointed Messiah foretold by OT prophecy is a fact conclusively established by the first-person witness of the apostles. (2) The foundation of our faith is authenticated by the inspired Word of God. We believe that all Scripture originated in the mind of God, not men; and that all the words from Genesis to Revelation, were written by various authors who were verbally inspired by God and guided by His Holy Spirit. As Christians, if we don't remember anything else, we must commit these two principles to memory.
This week, in 2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter will tell us how to recognize false teachers, not only by the error they teach, but also by the hypocrisy demonstrated in their behavior. Also, in Jude 17-23, we'll hear another reminder about the foundation of the apostles' teachings and further warnings about the dangers of false teachings. Jude ends with the exhortation that Christians who steadfastly hold onto the true faith can still persevere in the face of it. The writer Jude, a Galilean Jew who didn't believe in Jesus until after the resurrection, was the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus. Although the date isn't certain, scholars estimate that Jude wrote the letter in the early-60s A.D. from a location outside of Palestine, where he possibly pastored a predominantly Jewish church.
Read 2 Peter 2:1-3 - THERE WILL ALSO BE FALSE TEACHERS AMONG YOU
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep
v. 1a: "But false prophets also arose among the people," - The "people" to whom Peter refers are the OT Jews. In OT times, there were "false prophets" who tried to lead people away from the revelations of the true prophets (Num. 22-24; Jer. 16:13; Ezek. 13:9).
v. 1b: "just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." - The key words here are "among you," meaning that these people can infiltrate the church from within. The term "false prophets" refers to people who claim to be prophets of God but whose prophesy is a sheer fabrication; whereas, "false teachers" describes people who claim to teach truth that is inconsistent with the 'sound doctrine' taught by the apostles. The term "secretly introduce" literally means to 'bring alongside,' implying they use devious methods to change the doctrinal foundation of the church and in so doing, make it unstable. The term "heresies" refers to any idea that conflicts with the revealed Word of God.
v. 2 "Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;" - "sensuality" manifests itself by giving-in to the flesh and indulging one's physical desires, which may or may not involve a major departure from the faith. It is the sin of doing whatever feels good and can include "sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior" (Gal. 5:19). It can also involve drunkenness and substance abuse. It's a sad fact that whenever people abandon God's standard of truth, they usually adopt a lower standard of morality.
v. 3: "and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." - What Peter means by this is that the goal of false teachers is to gratify themselves, not God. This leads them to take advantage of their listeners. The Greek for "false words" is plastos, from which we derive the word plastic. These plastic words can be twisted to mean anything they want them to mean. They use words like 'salvation' and 'inspiration,' but the interpretations they place on them are counterfeit. One commentator said "the false teachers use our vocabulary but not our dictionary." Immature and unlearned believers are the people most susceptible to this kind of deception. And today the danger is greater than ever because we live in a secular human era that is deeply suspicious of anything that claims to be absolute truth.
APPLICATION 1: False teaching can wreck the stability of a strong church and pollute the minds of its believers. Every church needs to be constantly on guard against false teachers who are seeking to infiltrate the church from within. False teachers claims to teach the truth with principles that are contrary to the foundational doctrines of the New Testament. They use familiar terms like 'salvation' and 'inspiration' but the interpretations they place on them are twisted. As one commentator remarked, the false teachers use our vocabulary but not our dictionary." Immature and unlearned believers are the ones most vulnerable to these spiritual predators.
OVERVIEW OF JUDE: Jude asserts the overall theme of his epistle in v. 3: "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write 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." The expression "to contend earnestly" literally means to engage in a contest with weapons. Like Jude in his time, evangelical, Bible-believing churches today are involved in an epic struggle for the truth. In the next 14 verses, Jude delivered a scorching denunciation of the false teachers who were causing chaos in the churches, describing them as: "grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" (v. 16). The text reveals that Jude was primarily concerned with the perils of apostasy-departure from the spiritual truth or standards. As commonly understood, apostasy is primarily a matter of obedience, not salvation, and typically involves a major departure from the faith. Don't confuse this with 'back-sliding,' which is usually seen as a regression in morals or a lack of spiritual enthusiasm, or both.
Read Jude 17-19 - ONES WHO CAUSE DIVISIONS
17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
v. 17: "But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ," - This is reminiscent of Peter's words last week calling Christians to remember all the things about God and Christ that they already knew. The "Apostles" included the original eleven, plus Matthias (selected to replace Judas in Acts 1:21-26) and Paul. The "words that they were to "remember...spoken beforehand by the apostles," described "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (v.3). In other words, the articles of faith confirmed by the apostolic witness of Jesus Christ. Today, we would summarize this as the New Testament.
v. 18: "that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." - The "last time" refers to the end of the historical period that encompasses the Church Age and the Tribulation, which is also the last time before Jesus returns. The "mockers," by their very title, are people who pretend to know the truth, but actually seek to subvert the will of God by denying that the age will end or that judgment is coming. That they are "following after their own ungodly lusts" tells us they are people driven by fleshly desires that ignore God's moral standards. Jude reminds us that the apostles warned this would happen (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 3:3).
v. 19: "These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit." - Here, Jude adds three more characteristics that indentify these mockers: (1) They cause "divisions" in the church, drawing disciples to themselves or dividing people into ranks according to their progress in the apostasy taught; (2) "worldly-minded" are people motivated by an ungodly desire for wealth, power, and status; and (3) "devoid of the Spirit" has two views: (a) a believer so sunken in sin that the "Spirit" in them is effectively quenched or (b) an unsaved person posing as a Christian believer.
APPLICATION 2: Evangelical, Bible-believing churches like ours need to be prepared to contend earnestly for the faith. Because we live in a secular human era that is deeply distrustful of anything that claims to be absolute truth, we and churches like us are presently engaged in an epic struggle to defend what we believe. We are branded as 'reactionaries' because we believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. We are held in scorn by a liberal press because we believe in foundational doctrines like the sanctity of life and God's design for marriage. We must do whatever is necessary to keep this kind of apostasy from contaminating our church.
Read Jude 20-23 - BUILDING YOURSELVES UP IN THE FAITH
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
v. 20: "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit," - Jude now reminds believers of their spiritual resources: (1) "building yourselves up on your most holy faith": This describes the building-up process on the firm foundation of our faith. It involves regular church worship and diligent and ongoing, in-depth study of the Bible, both in classes and privately. By being built-up this way-a health analogy-we can effectively make ourselves spiritually immune to doctrinal error; (2) praying in the Holy Spirit: this is a powerful spiritual tool that means to pray as guided by the Spirit, in accordance with the will of God-as opposed to memorized prayers that are recited without intentional spiritual involvement.
v. 21a: "keep yourselves in the love of God," - The love of God can be compared to sunshine: The sun is always shining, but when something comes between us and the sun, it no longer shines on us. The love of God is the same. It's always there, but if we allow sin to come between us and the Lord, His love is no longer shining down on us. We keep ourselves in His light by abiding in Him continuously, not allowing sin to break our fellowship with Him.
v. 21b: "looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life." - This refers to the imminent return of Jesus Christ, which can happen at any moment. In this time of great apostasy and falling away, we need to keep this light of hope for our Savior's return burning continuously. In these two verses, the Christian life can be summarized as: (1) an inward look, relating to the development of our Christian character (v. 20); (2) an upward look, relating to our ongoing fellowship with God (v. 21a); and (3) a forward look, that that will be consummated when we are glorified in heaven (v. 21b) .
v. 22: "And have mercy on some, who are doubting" - Jude now encourages his readers to compassionately reach out to fellow believers who were struggling and perhaps stumbling under the influence of false teachers. Those "who are doubting" refer to sincere doubters who honestly can't make up their minds between truth and error. Even though they are wavering in their loyalty to the true faith, Jude is saying that we shouldn't abandon them but make a kind-hearted and constructive effort to restore them.
v. 23a: "save others, snatching them out of the fire;" - This is a "tough love" approach. These are people on the precipice, about to fall away into apostasy. This will entail strong, determined warnings and counsel. This represents is a 'last-ditch' effort to snatch them "out of the fire."
v. 23b: "and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." - This concerns believers (not unsaved people) who have been thoroughly corrupted by apostate teachings. Our "mercy" must be coupled with "fear," so we won't allow ourselves to get contaminated, too. The "garment" symbolizes things affected by contact with immoral behavior, such as personal habits, practices, and speech. In short we hate the garment they're now wearing but not the sinner.
APPLICATION 3: The obligation to guard against apostasy and doctrinal error is the individual responsibility of every Bible-believing Christian. This is our sacred duty to keep ourselves free of contamination, individually. We have two effective means of doing this: (1) To build ourselves up in the faith through regular church attendance and diligent Bible study that firmly grounds us in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith (the Articles of Faith in the Baptist Faith & Message are an excellent summary); and (2) To pray in the Holy Spirit in accordance with God's will-thoughtful prayers asking for things that honor and glorify God's name. Faithfully practicing these two important spiritual disciplines will go a long way towards keeping us spiritually immune from the contamination of apostasy.
APPLICATION 4: As Christians, we have a moral responsibility to rescue fellow believers who are struggling under the influence of false teachers. We need to reach out to them with compassion, not judgment. We need to be able to explain basic Bible doctrines and how they apply to real life situations; how they specifically apply to the person we're counseling. If they are beyond our help, we need to get them with people qualified to help them. e.g., pastors or trained Christian counselors. If they resist us, we need to be prepared to take a tough love approach and "snatch them out of the fire" with forceful warnings.