Week of July 3, 2011
Bible Verses:† Philippians 3:17-21; 2 Peter 2:10-19.
Lesson Focus:† This lesson is about how to overcome ungodly, self-serving, enslaving, and ultimately destructive behavior that mimics freedom.
Self-Indulgence Described: †2 Peter 2:10-14.
† and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, † whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. † But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, † 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. † They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!† [ESV]
[10-11]† Verse 10a functions as a transition to verses 10-16, and two reasons for the judgment declared in verses 4-9 are identified: the sexual sin and rebelliousness of the false teachers. Verses 10b-16 unpack these two themes in reverse order: the arrogance of the teachers in 10b-13a and their sensuality in 13b-16. The rebelliousness of the false teachers is communicated with the two terms: Bold and willful. The two words overlap in meaning. Together they could be translated ďboldly arrogant.Ē The false teachers were blessed with an extraordinary confidence, but unfortunately this confidence was not leavened with wisdom or humility. The arrogance of the false teachers is reflected in that they were not afraid to blaspheme the glorious ones. Verse 11 functions as a contrast with verse 10 where angels  is contrasted with glorious ones . This contrast indicates that the glorious ones are evil angels since it is clear that the angels in verse 11 are good angels. The false teachers had no fear in reviling evil angels. But good angels, on the other hand, even though they were greater in might and power than evil angels, did not venture to utter a negative judgment from the Lord against these evil angels. Good angels leave the judgment of the evil angels to the Lord. In conclusion, the false teachers did not fear demonic powers. Peter called them glories, not because they were good but simply because they were created by God Himself, even though subsequently they fell into sin. Perhaps the teachers did not tremble before them because they disbelieved in their existence. This would fit nicely with the skeptical worldview they adopted about the coming of the Lord [3:3-7]. Or they may have ridiculed any idea that human beings should be frightened about the power of spiritual beings. By way of contrast, good angels do not even declare Godís judgment against evil angels. They leave it with the Lord. The angels do not venture to declare a judgment from the Lord, but they entrust the fate of demons to the Lordís judgment.
[12-14]† The false teachers prided themselves on their insight and wisdom. In contrast (But) to their high estimate of themselves, Peter compared them to irrational animals. The irrationality of the teachers is emphasized in the phrase creatures of instinct. Like animals, the opponents operated on the basis of desires and feelings instead of reason. Peter considered the fate of animals that are hunted. They are born to be captured and destroyed by human beings. The false teachers were comparable to animals since the latter are bereft of rationality. The teachers believed they were reasonable, but they displayed their foolishness in criticizing what they did not comprehend (matters of which they were ignorant). Verse 12 concludes by identifying the fate of the opponents with the fate of animals. The false teachers would experience destruction, just as animals are eventually captured and destroyed. The fate of hunted animals is a picture of the fate of the wicked. Verse 13 contains a string of participles and adjectives explaining why the false teachers will be judged. The first clause indicates that the teachers would reap what they sowed. Those who live unrighteously will be injured by God at the last judgment. The theme of sensuality emerges in the next clause. The opponents were so consumed by and fascinated with evil that they could not even wait until dark, the time when evil is typically practiced. They make evil an all-day affair and even use the daytime, the period when ordinary people work, to indulge in their pleasures. Peter called the teachers blots and blemishes emphasizing that they stained and defiled the church. At the conclusion of the letter Peter exhorted his readers to be precisely the opposite of the teachers; instead of being blots and blemishes, they should be found to be without spot or blemish [3:14]. Peter identified the teachersí participation in the church as deceptions. When they ate together with other believers, presumably in meals that culminate in the Lordís Supper, they were deceitfully pursuing their own pleasures rather than seeking the good of others. Peter continues to give reasons why the teachers deserved judgment and continues to support the main clause in verse 12: they will also be destroyed. The focus on sensuality also remains. Peterís language is vivid and arresting. These people looked at every woman, considering them as a potential candidate for adultery. The next clause, insatiable for sin, is connected with the phrase eyes full. The idea is that they had eyes that never ceased from sin. Presumably their lust for other women was still intended, though perhaps their greed for material things was also included. The adverse affect the teachers had on others is expressed in the words they entice unsteady souls. The word entice hails from the world of fishing and hunting, where bait is used to snare an unsuspecting fish or animal. Since the verse directs our attention to sexual sin and greed, perhaps the teachers enticed people to sin by promising them that they could live for sexual pleasure and the material comforts of this life without any thought of judgment. Such a theology seemed too good to pass up for the unsteady soul, and they swallowed the bait quite eagerly. The sins of the false teachers take center stage in the next phrase, though Peter shifted from sexual sin to covetousness. They had hearts trained in greed. These people devoted energy and practice to greed, and now it was a fully developed habit. Having listed all of these sins, Peter returned to the consequence of such behavior. There were accursed children. In other words, they were under Godís curse. Again and again the theme of judgment surfaces, for this is the reality the teachers denied, and Peter wanted to arouse his readers so they would take it seriously and repudiate the teachers.
Self-Indulgence Rebuked: †2 Peter 2:15-19.
† Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, † but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. † These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. † 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. † They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.† [ESV]
[15-16]† Forsaking the right way implies that they were once part of the people of God. They had gone astray like Israel of old. They are now following the way of Balaam. The donkeyís speaking to Balaam indicates that Balaam had less insight into what God was doing than his animals. The narrator in Numbers suggested that Balaamís intentions in going were impure, that he desired financial reward [Num. 21:15-20]. The point of the story is that the Lord sovereignly spoke through Balaam to bless Israel, even though the prophet desired to curse Godís people. The false teachers, like Balaam, were not leading Godís people in the righteous way but in the way of the flesh. Peterís point here was that Balaam loved money, that a desire for material gain governed and motivated his prophetic ministry. Similarly, the false teachers were driven by greed. The most humorous dimension of Balaamís story is featured by Peter. While he was traveling to meet Balak, under the cloak of false piety and motivated by greed, his donkey instead of Balaam perceived the threat from Godís angel and complained about Balaamís mistreatment. The donkeyís complaints were a rebuke because he perceived the spiritual reality (the threat of death), while Balaam, the prophet, was oblivious to the danger. The only sane way to respond to the false teachers is to reject their lawless course because every Bible reader knows what finally happened to Balaam. He was ignominiously slain while fighting against Israel [Num. 31:8]. A similar destiny awaited the false teachers, and hence Peterís readers should repudiate their teaching.
[17-19]† Peter now turned to the effect the false teachers had on others, especially recent converts to the gospel. In the intense heat of the Middle East a spring would be a haven for the thirsty traveler. He would experience frustration and disappointment upon seeing that the spring that promised water was dried up. Peter reflected on the teaching of the false teachers. They promised satisfaction for thirsty souls, but in the end they left people parched and in need. The mists driven by the storm is an expression that is parallel to the first one in the verse. The mists promise water that is so desperately needed in a dry climate, but the wind sweeps through and drives the hazy mists away, leaving the land parched. In both instances the teachers did not deliver on what they promised. They pledged harmony and produced dissonance. Peter then returned to the theme of judgment. False teaching was not a light matter. Utter darkness is reserved for those who propagate error. Peter continued to press home the future judgment of the teachers. The false teachers were attempting to seduce recent believers so that the latter renounced their devotion to the gospel. The for gives another reason the teachers would be consigned to the gloom of utter darkness, namely, because they maximized their evil by including others in their evil ways. The teachers were waterless springs and a hazy mist because they did not lead people to truth but into error. Instead of giving them an inclination for the truth, they gave recent converts a delight in error. The two modifying clauses are both instrumental, explaining how the teachers baited their hook to lure away recent converts. The false teachers enticed recent converts in three ways: (1) with boastful speech; (2) with invitations to indulge the flesh; and (3) by promising freedom. Those who are weak are often susceptible to the assertive confidence of others, even if such confidence flows from arrogance and sin. Ultimately their arrogant speech is futile since anything that deviates from the truth is destined to fail. The words of the teachers breathe confidence, but in the end they will rue their own prescriptions. The second clause refers to the sensual passions of the flesh. The teachers probably lured recent converts by teaching that no judgment was forthcoming. And if there was no judgment, it followed that morality was irrelevant. People could live however they wished since judgment is an illusion. The door was opened, then, to sexual sin at every level. The participial clause in verse 19 gives the third means by which the teachers seduced those who had recently joined the church. They promised freedom, particularly by removing moral restraints Ė especially, it seems, in the realm of sexuality. The freedom they promised others was an illusion because they were slaves of corruption because they were controlled by their sinful desires. The verse closes with an explanation of why they were slaves: for whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. Peterís meaning is clear. If people cannot overcome certain habits and sins, they are slaves to such things. How could the teachers proclaim a message of freedom when they were unable to extricate themselves from sin? Their lifestyle contradicted their message.
Self-Indulgence Rejected: †Philippians 3:17-21.
† Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. † For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. † Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. † But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, † who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.† [ESV]
Earlier Paul urged the church to imitate Christ [2:5-11]; here he urged the Philippians to imitate him. The theme occurs in other places in Paulís writing, but it seems awkward to the present-day Christian. There is no egotism here, as two factors in the text make apparent. First, he realized that they would follow other Christian models as well: keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Second, verses 1-16 reveal that imitation is the literary style Paul used. He recalled his own experience to persuade them to follow him. To state that they should follow him was no more prideful than the pattern he employed in this chapter. It rather grew out of it. In addition, Paul urged them to imitate others who were like-minded. In Paulís absence they were to find other models who were true to his commitments. The principles Paul taught worked in the lives of their friends, who could be followed in Paulís absence. Paul delivered his final blow against the false teachers in verse 18. Emotion characterizes the text, and Paul confessed his tears as he wrote. It is the only recorded instance that the apostle Paul cried. Why was there such emotional involvement with these deceptive teachers? Paul described them and then explained their characteristics. He was sad, first of all, because he had to make repeated warnings about them. They apparently followed him about, seeking to entice people away from the truth. Doubtless, repeated efforts to counter that brought on fatigue. Second, he called them enemies of the cross. The statement must mean more than that they refused to accept the cross as Godís way of reconciliation. It means that they actively opposed the message of the cross and hindered those who would take advantage of its work. Paul cherished the cross. For him, the fact that the false teachers did not cherish the cross revealed who they were. Apparently these teachers were his own people who should have accepted the Messiah, but they chose instead to hinder the truth wherever they could. This was organized, active opposition to the gospel. Paul exposed these teachers by revealing their character. Four statements explain their theology and practice. The first characteristic looks to their eternal condition which was destruction. The direction they were going was enough to warn the church. The second and third characteristics point to the way they had lived before that time. Paul points out their excessive food and sexual pleasures. Since this is a Jewish context, the statement must refer to dietary laws and circumcision of which they were so proud. They had become so preoccupied with kosher foods that they spent more time contemplating them than thinking about God. Similarly, they were preoccupied with their circumcision, boasting of it wherever they went. Clearly, these matters engendered pride in the teachers, and Paul criticized them severely. Finally, they minded earthly things. Since they were earthly in orientation, their religious shortsightedness came because they could not see beyond time into eternity. Paul ended this comparison by presenting a Christian perspective. He specifically contrasted the earthly with the heavenly. Paul stated that our citizenship is in heaven. The metaphor had rich meaning to the Philippians. Immediately their thoughts would have turned to an analogy with their earthly citizenship. They were proud of their Roman citizenship, but the analogy would have conveyed more. Although citizenship may call to mind a place, Paul used it of a people. They awaited the Savior from that citizenship. He would come with power sufficient to subdue everything and with ability to transform their bodies to be like his. Once again, Paul spoke of the resurrection as the climax of his Christian experience. By implication, the false teachers would not share in the resurrection of the just because their expectations were earthly rather than heavenly. One final point occurs in verse 21. Paul focused on the physical body which would be transformed so that it became like Christís body. Two factors are significant. First, the body is destined for eternity. It should be treated accordingly, and people should not make earthly existence in the body their ultimate concern. The tragedy of the false teachers was, in part, that they did just that. They focused on some aspect of the body that would not last beyond this life. Second, Paulís hope involved a physical transformation. His theology included the fact that redemption culminated in a change of the body itself. The spirit was already in a resurrection with Christ; the body awaited that change. This statement reiterates the hope expressed in verse 10. The power of the resurrection would be complete when Jesus exerted His power toward the bodies of believers. Paul characterized the body now as one of humiliation. In so doing, he addressed the limitations Christians have on earth. The body is not suited in heaven unless a transformation takes place. In that sense, it symbolizes a Christianís state of humiliation. Someday, however, it will be a body of glory, fully suited to the needs of heaven and displaying the glory of Christ Himself. This was a significant hope, fully pastoral in motivation. It should have caused the believers to press on until that great day.
Questions for Discussion:
1.†††††††† How does Peter describe the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:10-19? Note how the false doctrines they believed impacted the way they lived. It is always true that what we believe influences the way we live.
2.†††††††† Yet these false teachers were able to entice unsteady souls in the church. How were the false teachers able to do this? What three ways does Peter give in 2:18-19?
3.†††††††† In Philippians 3:18 Paul describes the false teachers as enemies of the cross of Christ. What four statements does Paul give in 3:19 which describe the false teachersí theology and practice?
4.†††††††† As it was true in Peter and Paulís day, so it is true today. There will always be false teachers within the church [see Luke 21:8; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 17-19] seeking to entice unsteady souls. What can we do, both individually and in our local churches, to protect ourselves from being led astray to believe false doctrines and live a life that does not honor God?
Philippians, Richard R. Melick, Jr., NAC, Broadman.
The Message of Philippians, J.A. Motyer, Inter Varsity.
1,2 Peter, Thomas Schreiner, NAC, Broadman.
The Message of 2 Peter & Jude, Dick Lucas, Inter Varsity.