I. (Verses 12-13a) But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousnessÖ
A. In the second half of Chapter 2, Peter continues to describe the false teachers that we studied in Lesson 11. Peter uses vivid language that leaves no doubt as to where he stands on the issue.
1. Peter it seems would not have agreed with those who respond to false teaching by saying, "Well, we must not be negative or judgmental. After all, these teachers may be right. How can we really know for sure? Maybe we should all just agree to disagree."
B. Peter says that these false teachers were speaking evil of things that they did not understand.
1. These false teachers were likely claiming to have some special insightful knowledge, but Peter says they are really ignorant.
2. The word translated "evil" in verse 12 is the word "blasphemy." They were speaking blasphemy. The ESV translates the phrase as "blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant."
3. The use of the word "blasphemy" confirms that Peter's targets here are not simply people out in the world who are wallowing in the sin. The world almost always has had and always will have a majority of such people. Peter's targets here are people who are wallowing in sin while simultaneously acting as if they are religious.
4. "It is a sobering thought that not only are we not free to make up our own forms of doctrine and ethics, but if we do presume to do so our apparent free thought is actually blasphemy."
C. Using very strong language, Peter describes the false teachers as "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed."
1. Peter's description of these false teachers is in sharp contrast to the high estimation they no doubt had of themselves. I am sure they saw themselves as the most knowledgeable, the most spiritual, and the most enlightened. Peter saw them differently -- natural, brute beasts. Why does he use this description?
2. Peter may be describing their morality as descending to that of animals. They were promising a better, fuller life, but they were delivering something much lower. They were living like animals, so Peter describes them as such.
a) Like animals, these false teachers were operating on the basis of desires and feelings rather than on the basis of reason. In fact, the word translated "brute" in verse 12 means destitute of reason or irrational.
b) Perhaps they were denying the afterlife completely, which would be consistent with their description of the miraculous as mere fables.
(1) Absent the afterlife, we are ultimately no different than animals. When we are dead, we are just like Rover, dead all over. With that as the prevailing philosophy, is it any surprise that people live like animals? If there is nothing beyond this life, then we should just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
(2) The historian Will Durant said, "The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism; not Europe versus America; not even the East versus the West. It is whether men can live without God."
(3) It may be a great question, but it has a simple answer. Men cannot live without God no matter how hard they might try.
3. Peter may also have been describing the fate of the false teachers. Like farm animals reared for slaughter, they had ahead of them only judgment and condemnation. Peter says they will utterly perish in their own corruption.
4. Does this description mean that these false teachers were locked into a fate from which they could not escape even if they repented?
a) This question is answered by the three examples from the Old Testament that Peter discussed in the first half of this chapter -- the fallen angels, the flooded world, and the filthy cities.
b) Each of those examples involved open-eyed rebellion against God. Despite the full knowledge of the consequences of sin there was no desire to repent at all.
c) These false teachers are the same. They know the truth of the gospel, but they prefer to change it for their own personal motives.
d) Can we think of any examples of this today? What if -- with full knowledge of what the Bible says about baptism -- I instead teach that baptism is not necessary at all, and what if I teach that so that I will be more popular and more accepted by the world? Am I not then perverting the gospel for my own personal gain? How is that any different?
D. In verse 13, Peter says that these false teachers will receive the reward of unrighteousness. Literally Peter says that they will be done out of the profits of their wrong-doing. They may think they are getting away with something, but ultimately they will lose everything.
II. (Verses 13b-14) as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
A. In these verses, Peter describes how the false teachers were behaving among Christians.
B. First, they were partying and getting drunk in the day time.
1. Peter's point is not that it is okay to party and get drunk at night. Rather, he is stressing the extent of their depravity by saying that not only are they drunk, but they are drunk during the day time.
2. Drunkenness in the day time was almost universally condemned in the ancient world. This is likely why Peter worked so quickly on the Day of Pentecost to stop the rumor that the apostles were drunk. In Romans 13:13, Paul told us to walk honestly, as in the day.
3. But Peter likely has much more than drunkenness in mind here. The word translated "pleasure" in verse 13 is the Greek word from which we get hedonism. More than mere drunkenness, that word includes self-indulgence and vice.
a) One commentator has noted that "hedonistic" might describe our own culture better than any other single word. We live in a society whose god is pleasure. But sinful pleasure is a goal that is never reached. Many are caught up in a never ending spiral of desire in which each new pleasure must be better than the last. And like the false teachers of Peter's day, this pursuit seems to have become an all day affair.
4. By telling us that the activities of these false teachers occur during the day, Peter is also telling us that they have absolutely no shame in what they are doing. They are not trying to hide anything. Their rebellion and disobedience are clear for all to see.
a) "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush." (Jeremiah 8:12)
b) Dr. Joyce Brothers very recently published an article in which she suggested that shame is not a bad thing, but is rather an important indication that something is wrong in our lives. She was widely ridiculed and denounced in the secular press. Our American society is quickly losing its ability to blush. Jonathan Swift once said, "I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed." These false teachers were ashamed of nothing.
C. Later in 3:14 Peter tells us that God's people are to be spotless and blameless. By contrast, these false teachers are spots and blemishes.
1. They are like the blemishes on an animal not fit for sacrifice (Lev. 1:3).
2. Not only are they bringing the way of truth into disrepute with non-Christians (2:2), they are making the church unfit and unready for Christ's return.
D. Notice from verse 13 that this rioting during the day time was happening while they were feasting with the church.
1. These people were still hanging around with the church. That is why they are called spots and blemishes -- one cannot be a spot or a blemish on the church if no one thinks that person is in any way associated with the church.
2. I think Peter's message here is two-fold. In addition to denouncing the false teachers, Peter is criticizing his readers for their toleration of this evil among them. Such toleration is made even worse by what we will see in verse 18 -- these false teachers are targeting recent converts. We may sit idly by thinking we are not in any danger from false teaching, but is that true of the people sitting next to us? If we are really that strong, then don't we have a responsibility to protect those who are weak? And perhaps we are not as strong as we think if we are tolerating evil among us.
E. Verse 14 says that they have eyes full of adultery that cannot cease from sin.
1. Sin is totally out of control in their lives. Their eyes are full of adultery -- there is nothing they see that does not suggest and encourage sin. They have fought with their conscience until they have destroyed it.
2. The Greek phrase literally means "having eyes full of an adulteress." These people looked at every woman as a potential candidate for adultery.
F. Verse 14 tells us their target -- they are beguiling unstable souls.
1. Literally, they are enticing the unstable. The Greek word translated "entice" is a fishing term that describes how they are carefully luring unwary Christians.
2. And their targets aren't just ordinary fish -- they are specifically going after the unstable. They are going after people with shallow roots, people who are easily swayed and toppled.
a) Matthew 13:20-21 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
3. They promise the unstable that they can be a Christian and continue living for their sinful desires, and their unstable targets eagerly swallow that bait.
4. This strategy is common today. When false teachers enter a congregation, they don't initially target the strong members -- they target the weak, and although it is certainly not always the case, the weak are often the young.
a) There are congregations of the church (sometimes called "anti" groups) that do not believe in separate Bible classes. They argue that when the church met together in the New Testament, they always met as a group and never split up into smaller groups. I disagree with their efforts to bind that practice on everyone else. But I am forced to agree that there is a practical advantage to their practice of not splitting up into separate classes. In my experience, false teachers first work secretly on small groups with the hope that their efforts will later spread to the entire group. That strategy would not work in one of these "anti" congregations because in those groups what is taught to one is taught to all. I am not suggesting that we abandon our Bible school program, but I am suggesting we pay very close attention to what is taught in our classes and who is teaching them. False teachers almost always start by targeting small groups of weak Christians.
G. Finally, in verse 14, Peter tells us that they have a heart they have exercised with covetous practices, and that they are cursed children.
1. We get the word "gymnasium" from the word translated "exercised." The false teachers were getting a daily workout in greed. They were practicing every day to make sure they got it right. They wanted to be the best at covetousness as they could possibly be. Their sinfulness had become a fully developed habit.
2. This covetousness and greed is not limited to a love of money. It also includes, for example, a love of pleasure and a love of power. Covetousness in the Bible includes anything that men place ahead of God, which is why it is often linked with idolatry.
a) Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
b) Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
3. This whole sickening picture is summed up with two words -- cursed children. Literally, they are the children of a curse. This is the hardest denunciation yet, and it paves the way for his final Old Testament example -- Balaam, who was hired to curse God's people.
III. (Verses 15-16) Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
A. Balaam was the prophet who worked for profit. He would have been a familiar example to Peter's readers.
1. The Old Testament tells his story at length in Numbers 22:2 -- 24:5, and then repeatedly holds him up as a warning. (Numbers 31:16; Deuteronomy 23:4; Joshua 13:22; 24:9; Nehemiah 13:2, 27; and Micah 6:5.)
2. The Old Testament story is interesting and requires careful study. The language is difficult enough that some -- contrary to what Peter tells us here -- believe that Balaam was portrayed in a positive manner in Numbers 22-24.
3. In the New Testament, Balaam also appears in Jude and in Revelation 2:14, where he is the patron saint of the mysterious Nicolaitan sect.
B. So what did Balaam do?
1. In short, Balaam was willing to take money to entice God to curse the Israelites.
a) Balaam appeared on the scene as the Israelites were camped on the plains of Moab, preparing to enter the promised land. Balak, the king of Moab, wanted to stop the Israelite invasion, and so he tried to hire Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam explained that he could not go beyond the command of God even if he were given a palace filled with gold. But he still tried.
b) Although Balaam went through the motions and consulted God about what he should do, the text makes it clear that we was still intending to go his own way. For though God sent him to Balak, he became angry with Balaam and blocked his path. Apparently, Balaam's motives were not what they should have been. Chastened by God, Balaam refused to curse Israel, but instead blessed them four times to the chagrin of Balak.
c) Balaam, like these false teachers, put his greed for the wages of wickedness above his concern for the people of God. Although he piously proclaimed that he could never go beyond God's command, he still invited Balak's emissaries to spend the night so he could see what God might tell him in the morning. Balaam was seeking an answer from God to a question that God had already answered.
d) But Balaam went even further than that. Having failed by direct means to pervert the nation of Israel, he tried indirect means by leading Israel into idolatry and adultery. Since he could not alter God's view of Israel, he tried to alter Israel's view of God. He tempted many of God's people down a path of moral and theological compromise, and that did indeed eventually bring God's curse down upon them.
e) Again, the parallel is clear. The false teachers, like Balaam, are leading God's people down a path of sin and compromise.
2. The heart of the story of Balaam is that Balaam knew perfectly well what God wanted him to do, and yet he was willing to do the opposite for personal profit.
a) His moment of decision came when an angel blocked his path with a message from God. Balaam was so self absorbed that he could not see the angel, and so he spurred his donkey on. But the donkey spoke and rebuked Balaam for his cruelty and spiritual blindness. Balaam's donkey knew more about spiritual matters than the prophet.
b) Peter may have had a subtle message here for his readers. These false teachers, like Balaam, might be stopped in their tracks by the most unlikely of characters. Perhaps the donkeys of today are the ordinary (and normally mute!) Christians who finally quit carrying the false teachers along on their backs and instead stand up and stop a false teacher in his tracks by pointing out that what they are doing is flying right in face of God. In any event, it is quite a commentary if a donkey has the courage to do what we will not.
c) Notice that Peter is discussing three groups here. Two groups are the false teachers and their unstable victims, but there is a third group. Peter's readers and his target audience are the mature Christians that he wants to awaken to the dangers that are coming.
C. Peter tells us that Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness. Peter has already mentioned this motivation -- the Greek phrase used here is the same phrase translated "the reward of unrighteousness" in verse 13.
1. The wages of unrighteousness would include anything that these false teachers were willing to accept to disobey God. As we suggested earlier, it might simply be their desire to be popular and accepted by the world.
2. But it might be something much more concrete -- it might be money, which was precisely what motivated Balaam.
3. Money is a common motivation in the religious world at large. Many denominations base their doctrine on the contribution plate. If we ever place a motivation for money above the will of God then we are following the way of Balaam.
D. Finally, note that Balaam is said here to be the son of Bosor, whereas Numbers 22:5 tells us that he was the son of Beor. Did Peter make a mistake?
1. No. Peter is giving us a play on words. The Hebrew word for flesh is "basar." By changing Beor to Bosor, Peter is stressing that Balaam was a man of the flesh rather than a man of the spirit.
IV. (Verses 17-18) These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
A. These false teachers are empty suits. They are hollow and insubstantial. They may offer living water, but they deliver nothing but empty wells. They think they are powerful, but they are just clouds pushed around by a storm. They offer enlightenment, but they are living in darkness.
1. A well without water was a tragic disappointment to an Eastern traveler. Think of a farmer praying for rain who sees a cloud promising rain off in the distance, but who then sees that cloud drift uselessly by. A teacher without truth is the same kind of disappointment. These false teachers were not able to deliver what they promised.
2. Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
3. John 7:37-38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
B. These false teachers speak great swelling words of vanity.
1. They are overblown with their own importance. Peter's description suggests that they are much more interested in calling people's attention to themselves than calling people's attention to God. They wanted people to remember the messenger rather than the message.
2. Peter indulges in another play on words here -- he uses the same Greek word here to describe the false teachers' speech as he used in verse 16 to describe the donkey's speech. Even a donkey mouthed better doctrine than these false teachers! (This book is full of such word play and puns. It tells us that Peter was quite a character -- but then we already knew that, didn't we.)
C. Finally, in verse 18, Peter once again tells us who the false teachers are targeting with their perverse message -- they are targeting the recent converts who have just escaped from those who live in error.
1. Peter again uses fishing terminology -- these false teachers are angling for young Christians. "Like carnivorous animals that prey on the weakest members of a herd, so the false teachers focus their attention on the weakest converts."
2. Some congregations make this very easy -- they separate the young Christians into isolated little holding ponds and then invite the false fisherman in to bait their hooks and cast their lines.
a) Matthew 18:6 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
3. The recent converts are easy prey for the false teachers that Peter is describing. Peter tells us that they are allured through the lusts of the flesh. The false teachers tell them that if their way is followed, then they need not change at all -- they can have the best of both worlds. They don't need to leave their old lives behind.
4. These false teachers were offering a non-judgmental ethic and an open-ended theology, and that message is still for sale today.
V. (Verse 19) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
A. And here we see their message in a nutshell -- freedom!
1. These false teachers were promising liberty and freedom. Godliness, they no doubt argued, was a straight jacket. They offered true freedom instead.
2. But Peter found that promise ironic because those who were arguing freedom were themselves slaves.
a) Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
b) Seneca put it well: "To be enslaved to oneself is the heaviest of all servitudes."
3. These false teachers were offering freedom to sin rather than freedom from sin. They were promising freedom from external moral constraints. We should of course beware of any teacher whose promises differ from God's.
4. Peter, by contrast, told us in the first verse of this book that he was slave of Jesus Christ, and we should be the same.
B. Let's briefly review the strategy that these false teachers used to lure recent converts away from God. Their plan was threefold.
1. First, they spoke with a kind of assertive confidence that made the weak think they must have known what they were talking about.
2. Second, they appealed to sinful human desires, arguing that it made no difference at all if they fully indulged their sexual appetites.
3. Third, they argued that their teaching was the true pathway to freedom and liberation.
C. How do we combat such people?
1. Only a solid grounding in God's word and a genuine love for him will protect us against such people. Only those who have not taken the time and expended the effort to become grounded in God's word can fall prey to such deceptive teaching.
2. J. C. Ryle, writing 100 years ago, made this very point:
a) You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Ö Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
b) To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons that God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. Ö
c) Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Ö Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Ö
d) There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Ö If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Ö
e) If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.
f) If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast; no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.
3. Simply put, how successful we are against false teachers is directly proportional to how grounded we are in the word of God.
VI. (Verses 20-22) For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
A. At this point we need to answer an important question -- who are the people in these verses that were turning their backs on the Lord? Is Peter talking about the recent converts he mentioned in verse 18 or is he still talking about the false teachers?
1. Those who hold the former view argue that Peter is in these verses presenting a warning to the victims of these false teachers. They point specifically to the use of the word "escape" in verse 20 and in verse 18 to tie the two groups together, and they argue that these false teachers were so bad they could never have been Christians.
2. Those who instead think Peter is talking about the false teachers point out that this group has been the focus of the entire chapter. The Greek word translated "overcome" is used in both verses 19 and 20, which links the two groups. Further, Peter seems to be writing these people off, which would be appropriate for those engaged in such open rebellion against God. By contrast, one would think that those who had just recently been lured away could still be rescued and restored.
3. I think the second interpretation is the better one. I think these false teachers started off as faithful Christians and then turned their back on Jesus to instead follow their own sinful agenda. But perhaps the best explanation is that Peter has both groups in mind -- anyone who turns his back on Christ (be it a false teacher or a victim of a false teacher) is in the very sad state described here.
B. If then (as I believe) Peter continues to have in mind here the false teachers he has been describing throughout the chapter, then, after all that Peter has told us about these false teachers, he saves the worst for last -- these people were once faithful Christians.
1. Although it is clearly taught elsewhere, nowhere is it more clearly taught that a Christian can fall from grace and be lost. Calvinistic commentaries on these verses do handstands trying in vain to avoid this inescapable conclusion.
2. How do we know they were once saved? Because Peter tells us in verse 20 that they had "escaped" the pollutions of this world. Peter elsewhere uses that same term to describe the saved.
a) 2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
b) Peter also says that they had knowledge of Jesus Christ and knowledge of the way of righteousness. This is a favorite term of Peter's. In 1:2 he tells us that grace and peace come through this knowledge. In 1:3 he says that all things that pertain to life and godliness come through this knowledge. These false teachers once had that knowledge.
c) The gospel they initially confessed they now repudiate. The Lord and Savior they once embraced they now reject. The sinful world from which they once escaped has now recaptured them.
d) These false teachers were attacking the church from within. I have no fear of attacks against the church from without -- we have withstood attacks from no less than the mighty Roman empire. What I fear are attacks from within -- and today the thing that I fear is occurring in congregations all over the world. We are not being persecuted from without as much as we are being corrupted from within.
3. The images that Peter uses to describe such people are striking.
a) Dogs and pigs were considered unclean by the Jews. These dogs were not house pets, but were instead animals that roamed in packs and scavenged from the garbage. Peter says that those who are saved and turn their back on Christ are like dogs who return to their own vomit and like pigs who are washed but who then return to wallowing in the mud.
b) The writer of Hebrews had much to say about such people.
(1) Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
(2) Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
4. Peter says that the last state of such people is worse than their first state, which should be terrifying because that first state was already pretty bad -- eternal damnation. It would have been better for them if they had never even heard of Jesus. This statement parallels Jesus' statements in Matthew 12 and Luke 12.
a) Matthew 12:43-45 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
b) Luke 12:47-48 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
c) The Bible is clear that there are degrees of punishment, and it seems from these verses that those who accept the riches of God's grace and then turn their back on him will receive the greatest punishment of all. How sad and how terrifying it is today to look around and notice the people who are no longer here; the people who have left the body of Christ.
d) To whom much is given, much is required -- and who has been given more than we have?
(1) Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
C. This whole section of Peter's letter has been full of strong language, ending here with talk of mud and vomit.
1. Today we would no doubt view such language as being in bad taste, but we need to be careful about being too fastidious in describing the corruption of sin. We need to be very clear about sin in the world -- if we truly hate sin (as we are told to do) then we should use strong language to describe it. We often minimize sin by describing it with euphemisms. Pornography becomes "adult entertainment." Adultery becomes "affair." Fornication becomes "living together." Sodomy becomes "alternate lifestyle." Sin becomes "error in judgment."
2. "Sin ought to be represented by the Lord's ministers in its abominable vileness, especially when men labor to conceal its filthy practices with fair pretenses."
3. Sin is very serious business. Peter treated it as such and described it as such. The first step to combat it in the world and in our own lives is to describe it as it truly is.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)