Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reveling in Falsehood: 2 Peter 2

In Summary:

Peter continues his letter with warnings of false prophets. These false prophets have come and will keep coming, just they had throughout Israel’s history. The first few verses speak of the motivation and attraction of these false teachers: sensuality, greed, and arrogance.

In discussing these false prophets, Peter mentions Balaam (from Numbers 22-24, see here, here, and here,) the talking donkey, the Flood, Noah, angels, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are forced to select one of two options: either Peter’s citations are accurate, and so is the Old Testament, or Peter was wrong. If he’s wrong on the Old Testament, then that throws his credibility in doubt for all things.

The chapter as a whole resounds with condemnation of those who push evil. Peter recognizes that a new religion is easily corrupted. And he knows that corruption usually arises from within—whether by deceptive entrance or being deceived down the line. The trick? It starts as simple teaching that is a shade off, and then morphs into something much, much worse.

In Focus:

Turn your eyes firmly to 2 Peter 2:2. The first verse has addressed the false teachers who will arise among the church. This verse speaks to those who will follow them. In this, we see a couple of major issues:

1. The teaching that we are dealing with here is destructive heresy. I wrote, a long time ago, about calling stuff “heresy” (link) and how we should reserve that for theology that masquerades as Christian but is truly going to send someone to hell. Assuming Peter and I are on the same page here, his point supports that one can sneak into the church and push the church into heresy. He’s not talking about those who shift opinions on debatable matters like mode of baptism.

This is about those who start teaching that one does not surrender to Jesus as Lord for salvation. That can be those who think there are multiple paths or that one’s life does not have to follow the instructions of Jesus after salvation (obedience follows grace).

2. The teaching that we are dealing with ends up sounding good but brings reproach on the “way of the truth.” That could slice in a couple of directions, but the main concept here is that it becomes a self-pleasing idea. The hearers want to believe it over the truth, because it is easier to follow.

In Practice:

Practical steps to deal with heresy and false teachers? These bear constant repeating:

1. Read your own Bible. Not just a little of it, nor just for the light and fluffy moments. Read it, grow through it, and do not leave it to someone else to always tell you what it means!

2. Keep your teachers accountable. Including your pastors. It astounds me that we often want to keep our ministers more accountable for how they spend their time than how they hold to sound doctrine. We act like a one-time ordination questionnaire is all the theological exam someone needs. It’s not the case. But if you’re more worried whether your youth minister came to work at 8 or 805 than if he still believes the Bible is actually true, you’ll never notice his theological drift.

Or if you’re more concerned with the measurable effects: if your senses are more pleased by a large crowd than you are concerned with right doctrine, you are following down into trouble.

3. False teaching almost never sounds “bad” to our natural ears. It either supplies us justification for what we want, like men drawn to extreme patriarchy views, or it rolls nicely with what we’ve always heard, like some views of nationalism mixed into worship. These are harder to stop than we might think, because they sound so appealing and reasonable at the outset.

Overall, the difficulty in fighting false prophets and teachers is that they rarely start off sounding wrong. One preacherjust wants you to have a nice day, like every Friday should be, that’s all…somebody else just wants the 10 Commandments to be listened to. Then the next guy just wants you to have obedient children, and then the whole thing falls apart.

The best defense is keeping your focus on the One and Only Savior, and seeing the people God gives to help us walk with Jesus as precisely that: people.

In Nerdiness: 

Such nerd fun here: 1. Universal flood or not? Peter says…whole world.
2. Angels and judgment? There’s a boatload of differing opinions here. Suffice it to say that Peter’s point is not about the outcomes for the angels but about the reality that if God judges them, you do not escape the opportunity.
3. 2 Peter 2:8 is the source for thinking Lot was bothered by Sodom. Nothing in Genesis gives us that idea, so we either have to take Peter’s reflection as inspired or toss it.
4. Notice the idea that “instinct” leads one to be ignorant and destroyed. (V. 12). What does that do with viewpoints about natural inclinations?

5. Peter alludes to two major portions of the Old Testament: the Law and Wisdom divisions.

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