Devotional: 2 Peter 2:1-22
Verse 1: The word used for “false prophets” is a word that means “of illegitimate birth”, “counterfeit”, pretended foreteller or religious impostor”. They may look like Spirit-born members of the Body of Christ, but while their message quite probably will include a small amount of Truth, it will not line up with the whole of Scripture. In 1 John 1:4-6, he tells us not to place our reliance upon or commit our trust to just any spirit. Instead, he tells us to examine and discern if they are truly from God. Remember the Bereans in Acts? They didn’t just accept any new teaching that came to them, but they searched out the Scriptures to see if it was true.
Verse 3 makes me think of those people that promise answered prayers, health, blessings and prosperity to those who send them money.
Verses 4-10 show that God doesn’t wink at sin, ever. Yes, we have been forgiven, but that doesn’t give us license to sin. Remember, we were created for God’s Masterpieces, and have been redeemed, made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10). Along these lines, Phil 1:27 says “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ . . .” The word translated “conversation” in this case is a word that means “’to be a citizen, to live as a citizen’ and is used metaphorically of conduct as in accordance with the characteristics of the heavenly community.” I think that what Paul says in his letter to the Philippians is speaking to this need to live in a manner that honors Christ Jesus, the outward proof of your being a new creation and a citizen of heaven. But notice that while this word stresses BEHAVIOR, the King James version uses the English word “conversation.” Combine this with what Peter is saying, and it makes me think of the old adage, “actions speak louder than words.” What is in our hearts comes out in words and behavior. Titus, also, speaks of the need for our words and actions to line up (Titus 1:16): “They claim to know God but their deeds deny Him. They are despicable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
If there is any question that there is a judgement coming for those who refuse Christ’s gift of forgiveness and righteousness, it is these verses. One of the most prevalent heresies is that because God is love, the idea that there is a judgement coming and a hell is false. I have heard this heresy from a person who had a “near-death” experience that she based her whole life on. Unfortunately, the spirit that appeared to her convinced her that the Bible was wrong, and that this idea of everyone going to heaven was the “Truth”. She refused to listen to anything the Bible had to say, as it teaches against what she had been told in this vision. Again, we need to believe what the Bible says. It is the Word of God. We need to be like the Bereans even in testing experiences we have. The Bible is the final authority even over things we experience.
I notice that Peter’s message here in his second letter (especially this chapter) very much resembles what Jude is saying in his letter (especially verses 3-23). I also notice that 2 Peter 2:21 says that these false proclaimers of “truth” have known the way of righteousness after learning about it. This word is translated from a word that means “to observe, fully perceive, notice attentively, discern, recognize”, and can also stress participation. I also notice that Peter says of them that it would have been better for them to never have known the way of righteousness than to turn away from the holy “commandment”. This is not speaking of commandments plural (i.e. the 10 Commandments), but I think is referring to the commandment given to “be holy, because I Am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7 & 26, 21:8; Ephesians 1:4, 5:25-27; 1 Peter 1:15.) Holiness is being set apart for God’s use. Therefore, these religious “pretenders” have fully recognized Christ’s work on the cross, and the call to live their lives set apart for God’s use, yet they have chosen to turn their backs on the call to “come out from among them, and be separate, says Adonai. Touch no unclean thing. Then I will take you in.” (2 Corinthians 6:17). I believe that Hebrews 6:4-8 also speaks on this same topic. Turning toward God (changing one’s mind) is repenting. To RE-turn would be to once again face away from God. This is what Peter is saying that these false prophets have done. They have turned their backs on Christ’s sacrifice that purchased their redemption (freedom) and have chosen instead to return to the behaviors that had enslaved them to begin with.
I notice that in Hebrews, 2 Peter and Jude, the writers make a distinction between the ones who have turned away from the Truth and those who have been forgiven and are walking by the Holy Spirit in righteousness. Hebrews says in chapter 6, verse 9, “But even though we speak like this, loved ones, concerning you we are convinced of better things—things coming with salvation.” Jude says “but you, loved ones, continue building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” We have to wait until chapter 3 in 2 Peter, but he starts that chapter with, “Loved ones”. In each case, there is a distinction make between “they, them” and “you”.
How do we avoid falling for the trap that the enemy sets through these false prophets? First of all, believe what God says in His Word, the Bible. Act on (apply) what you read. Then, I think that Jude puts it very clearly in verses 20-25: “20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. 22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. 24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.”
Devotional reading to be shared on September 30th: 2 Peter 3:1-18