What many don’t understand is, Peter’s second letter is a direct rebuke of Paul’s heresies.
2 Pet 2:1-2 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Peter gives an important clue to identify the false teachers who bring in destructive heresies.
- Denying the Lord
- Way of Truth blasphemed
Let us explore what these destructive heresies are in detail.
Clue#1: Denying the Lord
Peter knows exactly what it means to deny the Lord before He denies three times. However, Peter is not writing to people who don’t accept Jesus as their Messiah but people who do accept Him as the Messiah yet deny them.
How can someone accept the Lord as Messiah yet deny Him?
Josh 24:27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.”
It is accepting Jesus as the Messiah, yet deny His teachings. Hence, the first clue to identify these false teachers are, they accept the Jesus yet deny His teachings.
Who denied the teachings of Jesus? It’s Paul who preached salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) rejecting the salvation Jesus taught by keeping God’s commandments (Matt 19:16-19; Rev 22:14). It’s Paul who taught we can’t earn our salvation (Eph 2:8-9), rejecting the teachings of Jesus that we must be worthy to receive salvation (Luke 20:35-36). (more)
Clue#2: Blaspheming the Way of Truth
What is the ‘Way of Truth’?
Gen 18:19 “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Christ is that way and truth. The way of the Truth is to do righteousness and justice. Hence, blaspheming the way of truth is to reject His teachings on the requirement of doing righteousness and justice.
Who blasphemed the way of truth? It’s Paul’s who taught a salvation that is wide gate and easy way just by calling on Jesus name and believing Him in heart (Rom 10:9-13) rejecting what the way of salvation taught by Jesus Christ which is through the narrow gate and difficult path (Matt 7:13-14) by being righteous and holy. (more)
Clue #3: Covetous Teacher
2 Pet 2:3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
These false teachers by covetousness will exploit with deceptive words. The judgment on them has not been idle and their destruction will not slumber.
Rom 7:7-9 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.
Who declared himself to be coveting? It’s Paul. To justify his covetousness, he even blamed the commandments of God to bring death (Rom 7:7-25) rejecting Jesus’s teachings that the commandments of God brings life (Matt 19:16-19) (more).
What else did Paul covet?
1 Cor 9:1-2 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Paul coveted to be an apostle of God. As we see above, he is claiming himself to be an apostle and wanting the church of Corinth to accept him as an apostle because of his work there even though none of the others accept him as an apostle. Paul was a self appointed apostle (1Tim 2:7), who wasn’t qualified to be an apostle (Acts 1:21-22), lied as an apostle (Eph 1:1; Rev 2:2) and was not accepted as an apostle by Jesus Christ (Rev 21:14). If Paul wasn’t an apostle of Jesus Christ (Rev 21:14), whose apostle was he?
Clue #4: Rejecting our righteousness for salvation
Peter gives two examples for God’s judgment.
2 Pet 2:4-5 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to Tartaros and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
In the first example, God spared only Noah, and his family from the destruction of the whole world.
Gen 6:8,7:1 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. .. Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
Ezek 14:14 “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord GOD.
Why did Noah find grace in the sight of the Lord to be spared? It was his own righteousness that saved him.
2 Pet 2:6-8 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)
In the second example, God spared only lot, and his family from the destruction of Sodom, yet lot’s wife didn’t deserve it and became a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26).
Gen 18:32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”
There wasn’t even 10 righteous people in Sodom except lot who is righteous. It is because of lot’s righteousness, he was spared.
Matt 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is exactly preached by Jesus Christ as well.
Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
Who preached that our righteousness will not save us? It’s Paul who rejected the requirement of our righteousness for salvation.
Deceived by Paul’s teachings
2 Pet 2:9-11 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
It is impossible to get deceived by teachings of Jesus who taught zero tolerance to sin.
Rom 4:4-5 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Jas 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
It was Paul who rejected teachings of Christ, rejected the requirement of righteousness to enter His kingdom and preached a strange doctrine of grace of God through faith alone to enter Kingdom of God.
2 Pet 2:12-18 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
Can these natural brute beasts, and those whose eyes having full of adultery who cannot cease from sin, loving the wages of unrighteousness, still enter the kingdom of God? Let us see what Paul wrote.
1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Rom 4:4-6 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
Paul’s version of righteousness is imputed of Christ’s where the ungodly become righteous instantly by God’s grace just by believing.
Rom 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
According to Paul, the natural brute beasts, those whose eyes having full of adultery who cannot cease from sin, those loving the wages of unrighteousness, can enter the kingdom of God just by confess with their mouth and believe in heart that Jesus is Lord. If they try to be righteous or holy, it is works and they are counted as debt. Hence, they believe and become righteous and inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
Can you see the examples given by Peter to discern against Paul’s deceptive teachings?
Paul’s liberty is bondage to Christ
2 Pet 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
It is important to understand that Paul and Jesus taught. What liberty did Jesus speak about? What was Paul speaking about? Was there any deception?
Gal 5:1-6 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Paul was speaking about a form of liberty that we are free from obeying the law and we are justified by faith. Paul’s liberty is from the law and the commandments of God.
John 8:31-36 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Jesus also taught liberty but from sins. This liberty is achieved by abiding in Christ’s teachings and his commandments.
Listen to what Jesus teaches about the law and God’s commandments. He actually made it stricter, not any liberty from it.
|Law of Moses||Christ’s Teachings|
|Do not murder (Exod 20:13)||Even being angry with brother is punishable as murder (Matt 5:22)|
|Do not commit adultery (Exod 20:14)||Even looking at a woman to lust is equal to adultery (Matt 5:28)|
|You can divorce your wife by giving a certificate of divorce (Deu 24:1)||Divorcing except for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery. Marrying a divorced woman also commits adultery (Matt 5:32).|
|Do not break the oath you swear but do according to all that proceeds out of your mouth (Num 30:2)||Never swear at all because anything beyond yes and no is from evil (Matt 5:34)|
According to Christ, if anyone who had Paul’s version of liberty which is through faith alone yet disobedience to what Jesus taught (which is much stricter than the law), they commit sin by being a slave of it and are still in bondage of sin.
2 Pet 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
If you had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (i.e., the liberty from sin), if you entangle in the pollutions again by reading Paul’s heretic teachings (i.e., liberty from obeying God’s commandments), your latter end is worse than the beginning.
For those who had known Christ and the way of righteousness which He taught and to turn away from the holy commandment,
- who consider themselves to have liberty from obeying them or
- they have something to boast or
- they reject it as works or
- incurs debt,
it is better for them to have not known the way of righteousness.
Prov 26:11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.
- A dog returns to his own vomit
- A sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.
The above is very clear that those who have faith alone yet sin are still in bondage to sin. They are not yet free as taught by Jesus Christ. These are like dogs returning to their vomit and they can never enter His kingdom.
Felix, very helpful site. What about the ending of the book where Peter refers to Paul’s letters as ‘scripture’ and Paul as a beloved brother? Thank you, may God bless us and show us His truth.
The book of 2nd Peter was not written by Apostle Simon Peter but pseudepigraphical and written by Simeon Peter (2 Pet 1:1) as the opening verse itself says. Irrespective of it, Peter is not authoritative over Christ or His teachings (Matt 10:24). Hence, Peter cannot approve something that goes against what Christ taught. If Peter goes against what Christ spoke, then Peter is Satan (Matt 16:23).