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Be On Your Guard

Sermon passage: (2 Peter 2:13-22) Spoken on: November 2, 2014
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Dr. Tan Hock Seng
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1,2 Peter & Jude

Tags: 2 Peter, 彼 得 后 书

Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
About Dr. Tan Hock Seng: Dr. Tan teaches New Testament studies, theology and languages in various seminaries in Singapore.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Be On Your Guard
2 Peter 2:9-22

At the beginning of his second epistle Peter wrote to the believers in Asia Minor,

2 Peter 1:4
He (God/Jesus) has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The phrase “to participate in the divine nature” means to grow in godliness (mentioned in verse 3).

This divine nature is the “new self” that God has re-created in us, so that we can be like Him – righteous and holy.

Employing the imagery of changing clothes, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:24

24 put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

This “new self” is actually the restored image of God. The image of God that we possess was marred by sin, but is now renewed in Jesus Christ.

The renewal of this image is not complete yet. In Colossians 3:10 Paul told the believers that we are being renewed in this image. That means that we are continually growing in this restored image day by day. So Paul exhorts the believers “Put on the new self…”

10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

However, some false teachers appeared among the Asia Minor churches, exploiting the believers for their money. Their sensuous lifestyles were luring the believers to “put on” their old self again.

Because the false teachers were subtle in their attempts to thwart the believers’ efforts to “put on” the new self, Peter exposed the character and schemes of the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:9-22.

Here is an Overview of today’s text 2 Peter 2:9b-22
I. Peter Censured the Moral Character of the False Teachers (9-16)
A. The False Teachers Despised Divine Authority (2:10b-12a)
B. The False Teachers Followed the Corrupt Desire of the Sinful Nature (12b-16)

II. Peter Exposed the Alluring Ways of the False Teachers (2:17-22)
A. The False Teachers Enticed People with the Promise of Freedom (2:19)
B. The False Teachers Themselves Had Great Difficulties in Repenting (2:20-22)

Let us read 2 Peter 2:9-12
9 … the Lord knows how to hold the unrighteous for punishment until the day of judgment 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand.

I. The Moral Character of the False Teachers
A. The False Teachers Despised Divine Authority
Q: In what way do they despise divine authority?
A: Verse 10b tells us that they were bold and arrogant even to slander celestial beings.

Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings.

I shall explain the religious background of Peter’s world for understanding the practice of “slandering celestial beings”.

1. Influence of pagan magic in the first century
Although the Jewish people shun idolatry, many were heavily influenced by the pagan nations to practice magic.

Magic was used to attain Health, Prosperity & Protection; for Casting Love-Spells; to Enhance Study-Abilities; for Cursing & Blessing; and for Exorcism.

Prevalence of magic practices at Ephesus
Ephesus was one of the cities in Asia Minor where pagan magic was prevalent. Many people practiced magic. Even after they became Christians, they continued to dabble in magic. When Paul was in Ephesus, he demonstrated that the authority to cast out demons lies in a person’s relationship to Jesus, and not in the use of a name as magic formula. Many believers confessed and repented of their magic practices.

Acts 19:18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.

Acts 19:19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas (several million dollars).

Acts 19 informs us that the Ephesians spent million of dollars on magic scrolls.

2. Cursing ritual of ascetic Jews at the Qumran community
In the Qumran community many Jewish people also practiced magic. They engaged in cursing of demons and angels. A few documents from the Qumran caves provide us some ideas about the “Cursing of Angels”.

One document reads,
Cursed be Satan for his sinful purpose and may he be execrated for his wicked rule! Cursed be all the spirits of his company for their ungodly purpose and may they be execrated for all their service of uncleanness! (1QM xiii)

Another document reads,
Be cursed, Angel of Perdition and Spirit of Destruction, in all the thoughts of your guilty inclination and all your abominable plots and your wicked design, and may you be damned … Amen, amen. (4Q286-87; 4Q280-82).

The records from those documents help us to understand why Jude rebuked his audience for cursing angels.

3. Jude’s admonishment of the cursing ritual
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you."

Jude told the believers, “You do not have jurisdiction to curse angels. Even the archangel Michael does not curse the devil. At most he said, “The LORD rebuke you”.

Only the LORD is worthy to rebuke Satan because He is the Creator. the Creator, alone, has the jurisdiction to do that. In Zechariah 3:1-3 we see an angel speaking to Satan i“The LORD rebuke you”.

Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the angel said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!

Yes, Jesus has given us the authority to cast out demons when we encounter demon possessed people in ministry. When we tell a demon “In Jesus’ Name, Come out!” We are not using a magic formula. We are actually saying “The Lord Jesus commands you to come out”. If the demon retorts, “What if I don’t want to come out?” Do not be intimidated. We must remember that the demon is disobeying the Lord Jesus, not us. When demons disobey the Lord’s authority, the Creator-God shall deal with them.

4. False teachers’ defying of divine authority
In the Asia Minor churches, the false teachers were despising divine authority. It is possible that those false teachers carried the practice of cursing demons a step further. In their denial of Jesus’ second coming, they might mock Jesus’ teaching by wanting to curse those holy angels that return with Jesus.

Jesus will return with His holy angels

Matthew 25: 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

Mark 13:27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen people from all over the world-- from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

When they mocked they might say like this “We’re not afraid of angels. When those angels come with Jesus, we’ll shoot them down one by one. Then we can enjoy some “Kentucky Fried Angel Wings”

B. The False Teachers Followed the Corrupt Desire of their Sinful Nature.

1. They Craved for Sins, as Beasts Crave for Food.
12b They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. 13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.

Q: Who is the one who catches the “brute beasts” and destroy them?

The one who catches the false teachers like “brute beasts” is not God.

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

In 1 Peter 5:8 the devil is portrayed as a predator of those who are proud & greedy.

In 2 Peter 2:12 Sin is portrayed as a predator of the false teachers who are arrogant & greedy.

Those immoral teachers will eventually be consumed by their sins they enjoyed. Romans 6:23 warns us that “the “wages of sin is death”.

2. They indulged in sensual pleasure
Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.
They are blots and blemishes,
reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.
14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning;

In the Greco-Roman culture, a patron usually hosts a feast in a room. Feasts were often accompanied by sexual entertainment. After the meal, the mothers would take the children home, and the men stayed behind to engage in prostitution or orgies. Peter censured the false teachers for indulging in sexual pleasure openly, without shame. “With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning.”

3. They lured the “unstable” to licentious living
they seduce the unstable;

Q: Who are the “unstable”?

James told his readers that a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8)

When I was in the Jubilee Youth Fellowship in the 70’s we often sang the song “I have decided to follow Jesus”. The lyrics of second stanza say “The cross before me; the world behind me. No turning back; no turning back.” Somebody penned a third stanza for that song, with a twisted sense of humor. It says, “The cross on my right; the world on my left. I want them both; I want them both.”

Those lyrics illustrate what a double-minded person is like. One hand he wants the cross, on the other he cherishes the world. He just loves them both. When we are double-minded we may become “unstable”. When the cross tells us to do one thing, the world will tell us to do the opposite. We will constantly feel the tension between the world and the cross. When the unstable believers were struggling to decide which to choose, the false teachers would step, “Don’t think too much; just join us”

4. They were greed-motivated
Earlier Peter exhorted the leaders,

1 Peter 5:2 2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve…”

Now in verse 14, he warns them against the false teachers,
they are experts in greed
-- an accursed brood!

In verses 15-16, we read that the false teachers were tracking the path of the prophet Balaam,

15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey-- a beast without speech-- who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

Balaam was a prophet who loved money so much that he was willing to compromise to get what he wanted.

1. Balaam is remembered for accepting a large sum of money from the king of Moab to curse Israel. While he was on his way to curse Israel, the LORD stopped him. God said, “You shall not curse a people whom I have blessed.” (Numbers 22)

But Balaam did not want to forfeit the money also. What could he do? He thought of a plan “I cannot curse Israel, but I make the people cursed by God Himself”

2. Balaam is remembered for luring the Israelites to worship the god of Moab and indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women. Then the LORD judged the Israelites and 24,000 people died in one day (Numbers 25:1-8)

Like Balaam, the false teachers were luring the believers into sins. Both of them were much corrupt by greed.

After censuring the moral character of the false teachers, Peter exposes the ways those teachers lure people to follow them.

II. The Alluring Ways of the False Teachers

Q: Now, you may be wondering, “If these teachers were living obvious lives of sins, why did many people still want to follow them?”

Similarly, today we may ask, “If that pastor’s teaching is so wrong, and his lifestyle is morally questionable, why is his church so big?

1. What those teachers did was acceptable in the Greco-Roman culture

Past Lifestyle of Asia Minor Believers
1 Peter 4:3
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—
living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

Alluring Lifestyle of the False-Teachers
2 Peter 2:13-14
Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight.
They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.
14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning;

The Asia Minor believers used to live in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry.

When they believed in Jesus, the believers were urged to swim against the tide.

Peter urged the Asia Minor believers,
Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived … (1 Peter 1:14)

The Apostle Paul also pleaded the same thing in Romans 12:2,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The motivation for not allowing ourselves to be conformed to this world is given in 1 Peter 1:15,

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do … (1 Peter 1:15)

Holiness is not “you cannot do this; you cannot do that; all you do everyday is read just the Bible, pray, and sing “hallelujah to the Lord” If that were the correct picture of holiness then many youths may react, “Holiness is more suitable for my Ah Gong & Ah Ma.”

The popular cartoon series “The Simpsons” has been projecting a wrong idea of Christian living through the characters of the Flanders family. The Flanders will play only Bible games, and watch Christian TV channels. Their lives are always very orderly and they have no family problems at all. They are cast as perfect people. The Simpsons detest the Flanders because they feel lousy and condemned.

That is not what holiness is. In John 17 Jesus prayed for His disciples,

John 17:15-17
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

As Christian we are “in the world” but we are not “of the world”. The way to remain in the world but not conformed to it is to allow God’s word to sanctify us.

The concept of Holiness stems from the verb “Sanctify” The term “sanctify” means to set apart.

We should ask two important questions,
1. “Set apart from what?”
2. “Set apart for what/ for whom?”

When God called us to be His people,
He sets us apart from the world (the world’s values & ways of doing things).
He sets us apart for Himself.
He sets us apart so that we may be Christ-like.

Because God is Holy, whatever He sets apart for Himself becomes holy.

We are in the world but we do not follow the world’s values and its ways of doing things.

In that sense we are called to swim against the tide.

Evangelism, at least, should be done in a “Set Apart” manner also. We cannot call this kind of performance “evangelistic” just because the dancer is twirling around a cross, which is actually a modified pole. We should be careful not to do things that the non Christians considered morally wrong.

However, the false teachers were leading the believers to “flow with the tide”. Should the believers imitate the false teachers’ lifestyles, they would be reverting to their former lifestyles.

Q: Now, back to the question “If these teachers were living obvious lives of sins, why were there many people following them?

1. Those teachers’ conduct was regarded as “normal” in their society. So, believers who do not have a renewed mind are not able to sense and discern what is wrong.

2. Those teachers were good at making promises.

A. The False Teachers Enticed People with the Promises (2:19)
The most common appeal to people is “the promise of freedom”.

They might teach something like this,
“Jesus Christ died for you; God has forgiven all your sins. So, when you sin, God will no longer condemn you. You are living under God’s grace. There is no judgment. FULL STOP.”

So far, their theology is correct, but the Gospel does not stop there. There are also the parts to: Stop sinning habitually under God’s grace; Grow in Christ-likeness under God’s grace; Take up the cross and follow Jesus under God’s grace.

Unfortunately, some pastors say, “You don’t have to take up the cross; Jesus has carried the cross for you. Today many teachers would teach “Grow richer, richer and richer under God’s grace. Become more successful. You shall be free from sickness under God’s grace.”

Can we call this set of teaching “New Creation” theology? No! It is actually “Old Creation” but with heavy make-up to make it look like new.

If the prosperity Gospel were true, then the people who need it more are those in the world’s top 10 poorest countries. Those people desperately need money to alleviate their hunger and poverty. But strangely, the prosperity gospel preachers like to tour and preach in the world’s top 10 richest countries. That makes their ministry motive highly questionable. If God were to keep on blessing those who are already rich, then the poor will cry out, “God is very unfair?”

In Peter’s days the false teachers were teaching very loudly by the way they lived. Their lifestyles proclaimed to the people “God’s grace means license to sin.”

It is possible that the false teachers had greatly misunderstood the Apostle Paul’s teachings about God’s grace and the Christian freedom.

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter admits,
“His (Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Thus, in 1 Peter 2:16, the Apostle seeks to correct some wrong applications of Christian freedom.

16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Paul himself also corrects the wrong understanding of grace

Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

In verse 13, Paul exhorts the believers to offer themselves to God as instrument of righteousness.

Romans 6:13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin… but rather offer yourselves to God …the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

Peter exposes the false teachers for making false promises
1. Their promises were empty
Springs without water –
Mists driven by storms

Some preachers may use the banner of “mission” to justify questionable activities they do? We may hear people say, “We want to take the gospel to China.” My reaction is, “If you do not even care about the people living in Chinatown here, it is hard for me to believe that you really care about people you have not yet met in China.” “China maybe another market for you to solicit more money”

Q: Why did Peter deem the promises of those teachers empty? It is because those teachers themselves were entrapped in sins.

2. They were entrapped in sins
19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity— for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

The false teachers did not possess the Christ-life in them. Christ-life means being the salt of the earth and light in the world. Without the Christ-life, what people can experience is just temporary emotionalism (feel good), not lasting transformation (life-changed).

There are some pastors who endorse sins today. Here are some examples:

One pastor told the youth in his ministry,
"God is not that petty" to care if Christians, or anyone else, smokes marijuana.

Then he cites Genesis 1:29 to justify Marijuana was given by God for the human pleasure.

Genesis 1:29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

Another pastor freely admitted,
"I'm a youth pastor at a large church, and I smoke marijuana every day that I'm not at service (Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday)." "My Lord still loves me."

Yes, God will always love you but remember: He will discipline those whom He loves as a Heavenly Father.

Hebrews 12:6-7 the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

B. The False Teachers Themselves Had Great Difficulties Repenting (2:20-22)

2 Peter 2:20-22 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

Many readers treat Peter’s warning about false teachers very lightly. They think that that kind of false teachers lived a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Here is a true story to illustrate Peter’s message in the text we read today:

From 1974 through 1989, Jim Bakker, a tele-evangelist, preached the Prosperity Gospel in his TV show “The PTL Club”—that “God wants you to be rich.” His wife, Tammy, sang Gospel Songs. The PTL Club viewership hit 12 millions.

Contributions requested from viewers exceeded USD 1 million per week. The 24-hour PTL TV networks earned 12 million dollars a month at its peak. In 1978, the Bakkers built Heritage USA, a Christian theme park that covers 9 square kilometers at Fort Mill, North Carolina. (Our Sentosa island is only 5 sq km.)

The Heritage USA facilities include these:
The 501-room Heritage Grand Hotel, Main Street USA,
The Heritage Village Church,
A 400-Unit Campground,
An Amphitheater, Conference facilities, a Skating Ring, and
The Heritage Island Water Park and Recreational Facilities
An Indoor Shopping Complex.

By 1986, Heritage USA, attracted nearly 6 million visitors, and earned $126 million per year.

Then Jim Bakker started selling Time-share ownerships of a yet-to-be-built luxury hotel at Heritage USA. He substituted the term “Life-Time Partnership” for “Time-Shares”. For US$1,000 a buyer could have a 4-day/3-night stay at the Heritage USA Grand Hotel. (The Hotel had yet to be built at that time).

From 1984 through 1987, the PTL organization earned 165 million from selling the Life-Time Partnerships. Jim Bakker kept 3.4 million of that earnings as bonuses for himself.

Then timeshares owners started complaining—the hotel has only 500 rooms, but the demands way exceed the supplies. The Consumers’ complaints led to investigation for fraud, and after a 16-month trial, Jim Bakker was convicted for:

8 counts of mail fraud; 15 counts of wire fraud; and 1 count of conspiracy

He had ripped US$158 million off his followers. He was given a 45-year jail sentence and a US$500,000 fine.

“PTL” used to stands for “Praise the Lord”; after the Bakker’s scandal it became “Pass The Loot,” “Preachers Take Loot,” or “Pervert for Licentiousness”.

The criticism for licentiousness came about after Jim Bakker’s sexual affair with a church’s secretary was exposed in 1987. Bakker tried to silence the woman in the affair by paying her a huge sum. The woman turned round and accused Bakker of rape.

Tammy divorced Jim Bakker in 1992 while he was in prison and married Roe Messner, the developer of the PTL resort. Jim Bakker also married Lori Graham in 1998.

In 1991, the United States Court of Appeals voided Bakker’s US$500,000 fine, and reduced his sentence from 45 years to 8 years. After serving 5 years in prison, Bakker was released on parole in 1994.

In 1996, Jim Bakker wrote a book entitled I Was Wrong.

He wrote, “The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet.”

Many church leaders were very happy for Jim Bakker. But Bakker’s repentance was short-lived.

In 1998 Bakker released another book, Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse. He urges people to buy his Apocalypse-themed products to prepare for Jesus’ return. He warned readers that Christ’s return shall be followed by a worldwide catastrophe and that global economy will crash. He asked, “What will you do when a can of beans is worth more than a Rolls-Royce?”

Some of his over-priced products are:
1. US$500 for “Jim’s All American 4 Star Vegetable buckets
2. US$1,700 for a fuel-less generator, plus packages of long-lasting food supplies.
3. US$2,000 for 37 buckets of corn, green beans, tomato flakes and raspberries and enough fuel to cook 480 meals
4. US$100 for the ‘Silver Solution’ enema kit (for Immune System Support)

Jim Bakker is back on TV with his new wife, Lori Graham. Last year (2013) Bakker published another book Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead.

The Apostle Peter knew that false teachers do not easily repent. That is why Peter lamented,

2 Peter 2:22 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."

In 1989 The Heritage USA facilities was badly hit by Hurricane Hugo.

The Apostle Peter’s warning is still relevant for us today, “There will be false teachers among you…”

2 Peter 3:17
Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.

Q: What is that “secure position”?

1 Peter 2:9 you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…

Text for Reflection
1 Peter 2:11-12 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

2 Peter 2:13–22 (Listen)

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, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, 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.”