Skip to main content

2 Peter 2:1-22 Sermon Notes

By August 13, 2023Sermon Notes

In the early twentieth century Charles Ponzi cheated people out of 200 million in today’s dollars.

This included family and friends, rich, poor…he was an equal opportunity crook.

He is the namesake for a Ponzi scheme (though he was not the first)

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

There is no real wealth or goods being created, so it is just a matter of time before the unreality of the deceitful scheme crashes on the rocks of reality.

The biggest Ponzi scheme in history was perpetrated by Bernie Madoff: He cheated people out of 18 billion dollars

-Like Ponzi he cheated everyone friend and foe alike, and he did it, amazingly, for decades.

Ponzi died in poverty, sick and alone

Madoff died in poverty, sick, and alone.

They promised what could not be real but many really smart people believed them anyway.

The both experienced judgment…but their sin cost so many people…our sin almost always costs others not just ourselves.

What made them such effective salesmen of unreality?

It is complex, there was plenty of deceit involved, but in simple terms.

  1. They were charismatic personalities (they were believable people, selling unbelievable ideas)
  1. It looked like it worked (for some, in the short term, it did.)
  1. They told people what they wanted to hear (it was an attractive unreality)

In chapter 2 of Peter’s second letter, he will talk about God’s judgement on deceptive salesmen, false teachers.

A couple of things about judgement, before we jump in.

  1. Justice requires judgment

-If there is no judgement for injustice, there is no justice.

-We know this intuitively.

-It is a part of common grace…it’s built into us.

-It’s why injustice makes us angry

-It’s why films often conclude with the bad guy or girl…getting justice…we find it satisfying to watch.

  1. Judgment can be slow in coming

-This can cause people to believe they can do what they want without consequence, sometimes until it is too late for them.

*I saw a video of comedian, Sarah Silverman, passionately telling people (especially young people) that there is no hell, no final judgment.

-She says, if I am wrong, God strike me dead right now…then she pauses…waiting…and then as if this is proof of her point…smiles…”see.”

-Many have tested reality on this point…is God just and does he judge people?

-The problem is that sometimes by the time people experience judgement, it’s at a point of no return.

When it comes to God’s judgement we should trust his Word, and not learn from experience…experience, in this case, is a terrifying and terrible teacher.

  1. People often attempt to judge God for his judgment

-They are offended by what he is offended by. 

-They have their ideas as to what he should and should not judge….this changes with time and cultures and personalities.

-They want justice and judgment, but on their terms and in their own timing.

Peter, was formerly an impulsive man, prone to want to take judgment in his own hands.

In John 20, Peter was in the garden where Jesus was praying and preparing for the terrible trial to come.

Peter, who had been sleeping while Jesus had asked him to pray…was now wide awake when a group of soldiers and other officials stormed the formerly quiet garden…threatening to take Jesus away.

Jesus was fully able to defend himself if had wanted to…

But Peter pulled his sword and cut off a guy’s ear.

Peter was physically armed…but spiritually unarmed and unprepared for what happened.

Jesus said, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

You can bet that Peter was not aiming for the guys ear…he was trying to kill the guy…he was aiming for his skull.

He was ready for battle…sort of.

On that same night…he denied Jesus three time…where did his courage go then?

The picture that the gospels paint of Peter at that point in his life is not flattering…he was impulsive and brash…then he was a shrinking coward.

Now decades later, Peter is not that same person…he has grown.

That fact alone should give us hope, and challenge us.

There is ongoing debate as to whether people really can change and if so, how much.

Of course, they can and they do…and they can change, we can change, in dramatic fashion.

But it doesn’t just happen…so Peter, who knows from experience wrote…

“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance…so one.

So, Peter, the formerly brash coward has learned something about trusting God, he has matured in his faith and life.

He has seen some things…he has seen tyrants come and go, he has seen charlatans, false teachers come and go.

He has seen God’s judgment, a necessity for a just God…in action.

He has seen God’s grace, a reality for a loving God…in action.

He is 100% confident that God’s judgment, like his justice…is a sure thing.

He is also passionate about the truth…and so he is passionate against that which is not true.

He has changed, he is not brash, he is not a coward…and yet, though he is more like Christ, he is still Peter as God made Peter to be.

He is full of passion and fire still.

A fire in fireplace can warm a house…a fire out of the fireplace, can burn a house down.

When Peter’s fire was not under the control of the master…it was destructive and self-serving…but when it became a spirit-controlled fire…it was no longer full of self.

It was true passion, focused, lasting passion.

Uncontrolled fire is not freedom…it just leads to a life that looks like the tragedy of the Hawaiian city that burned last week… nothing but ash in the end.

Becoming like Christ doesn’t mean we stop being us…it means we become the “us” that God designed and desires…and the “us” that we would want to be if we had the good sense to know it.

Okay, to 2 Peter…

In chapter 1 he wrote:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Now in chapter 2 he writes:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

So, in the OT there were inspired authors of Scripture, true prophets of God.

But there were also false prophets…running around.

Now, just as Peter speaks the truth of God to the NT church, there are, he writes…false teachers among them.

Two tale signs of these false teachers, they trafficked in:

  1. Sensuality


  1. Greed 

They make up stories to fit what they are selling and they are selling what people want to hear.

False prophets are salesmen…they are not telling the truth; they are selling what is not true.

True teachers are “tellsmen”…they are not selling; they are just telling.

So, these false teachers are selling “freedom for personal gain.”

The freedom they promise is…

“Jesus has freed you from guilt, so you are free to do whatever you want…no guilt, no judgement…just you doing you!”

What a deal.

They gained a following and they could make good money selling people this kind of freedom.

Of course, it was a Ponzi scheme…the freedom fizzled pretty quickly.

Peter wasn’t selling, he was telling gospel truth.

He wrote, be self-controlled, move away from the old bondage of your former life, prepare yourself for action, endure suffering.

This is no Ponzi scheme…this is true, lasting riches…taping into the truth resources of the gospel.

The condemnation, of these false salesmen, Peter wrote, has long been hanging over them.

Peter has lived under the knowledge of his death, but without fear hanging over him, because his death will not lead to condemnation.

They live without fear of condemnation…but God’s judgement, Peter writes, is not sleeping.

They really ought to be afraid.

Perhaps, they are like Sarah Silverman…”Huh, another day of living and selling lies, another day, where nothing has happened to me…no lightning bolt from heaven.”

Peter then gives three OT examples of God’s judgment: All three point to the reality that God’s judgment is sure and in his own time.

Fallen angels: They rebelled against God and they will be judged for it.

-Their experience points to the biblical reality that God’s future judgment finalizes choices that we make now.

-In the case of fallen angels, they stand condemned already, and will be judged in the future.

The flood in the time of Noah

-Noah was preserved because in a world that had cast off truth about God, he, though not perfect, maintained his faith.

While Noah built…the people, mocked…and did whatever they wanted.

“Noah is still that building a boat in a field…no rain again today…Noah is an idiot.”

“God isn’t there or God doesn’t care.”

But though humans can doubt the unseen realities of God, they cannot breathe water.

The God who made humans and water…brought water judgment on humans…judgment is a real and sobering reality for a just God and a sinful people.

Peter is not mean or cruel in his direct words…the “sellers” were cruel…they told people what they wanted to hear regardless of the cost of the coming judgment.

The third example was

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

-Lot was rescued, Peter writes, because he was a righteous man.

-If you read Lot’s story this can be a puzzling statement…Lot was actually a pretty messed up guy.

-But relative to those around him, he was a stand-up guy…this shows how bad things had become.

-It also offers hope…God is not looking for perfection…he is looking for faith, even a stumbling faith as long as you are stumbling in the right direction.

Now, the right direction…is to put your faith in Christ.

God knows how to rescue his own, Peter writes…to a church that was suffering under the murderous hand of Nero.

Peter is, as he often does, reframing what they are seeing.

*Parents often do reframing for kids…in fact, it is a large part of what parenting is.

“You don’t feel like it but you must because it is better.”

“I know you don’t want to but this is important.”

“You may think I am mean, but this is love.”

Children, if allowed to go their own way would, will use their freedom to ruin for harm.

They have not learned that freedom is the presence of self-control not the absence of parental control.

In verses 10-until the end of chapter 2 Peter uses very strong language to warn about the coming judgment on the false teachers.

His language, at first glance, sounds derogatory but it is in fact descriptive.

12 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, 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.

That sounds pretty harsh…but listen to what he actually said.

“They are like irrational animals of instinct…like a deer…the deer doesn’t act with wisdom and faith-filled faithfulness…it does what instinct tells it and it is caught by humans and consumed.”

So, when he writes they are “cursed children”…this is descriptive, a fact of their choices.

Joseph said to the people of Israel…choose blessing or chose to be cursed…if you choose blessing you will choose to obey God.

These false teachers have chosen to be cursed.

They live controlled by instincts like an animal does…and this ongoing choice to live outside the confines of the way God has designed the world…will in fact lead to their judgment.

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.

They don’t deliver on their promises, because they can’t…there is not truth in them.

They are waterless springs.

-They were the cool, exciting, revolutionary new teaching, new understanding…new book, new, new, new.

People flock to this new source of truth and find there is no water, it is an empty stream bed.

Humans are insatiable in their quest for new and more interesting.

*I’ve watched over the years as a man or a woman becomes enthralled with another man’s wife or woman’s husband.

-This new person is much more exciting, less ordinary and boring than their spouse.

Then, they find this boredom driving a lust for different is a waterless spring…this new person…is now quickly, not so new anymore.

it is all so very stupid.

How can we be attracted to waterless springs? 

We are too easily bored…we are looking for the new, the better, the easier, the more exciting…people trade the fire of a long passion in a single direction for the ash of a burned out life.

I’ve seen people over the years…bored with the Word, Spirit, and Worship…move from church to church looking for something to fix their boredom, their thirst for new, different, exciting…an experience that will authenticate their faith.

I need an experience…I’m tired of this passionless plodding.

Well…then plod with passion…but don’t chase experience, the new…it is trap that you will find it hard to escape from.

When people go looking for a church to tell them they can do whatever they want with their bodies, their lives…and  still be pleasing to God at the same time.

They will find it.

If they really want someone to tell them what they want to here, and are willing to pay for it…they will find it.

They will experience a mist driven by a storm.

It feels like the end of dry weather, a promise of relief…finally, I’ve found it!

Thunder and lightning…and no rain.

Smoke and mirrors… no life…just ash, and dust.

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.”

We will land on verse 19 but let me address who Peter is talking to and about here.

He is talking “to” his dear friends, those he has high spiritual hopes for.

He is talking “about” those who appear to be believers but are not.

They dabble in the faith, but have not embraced it as demonstrated by living faithful lives.

If you read Peter’s letters, he writes like this to his fellow faithful…

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus OUR Lord. 3 His divine power has given US everything WE need for life and godliness through OUR knowledge of him who called Us by his own glory and goodness. 4

What difference do you see in who he addressed here and then at the end of chapter 2?

He writes, “We, us” throughout his letters.

He writes, “They, them” in that passage about those who fall away.

He is not in this passage talking about believers who have fallen away, he is talking about those who did not fully embrace faith…they knew the way of righteousness…they toyed with commitment…but did not make it.

Now they are making up their own way…and they are trying to entice the faithful to join them in their faithlessness.

Don’t do it…Peter warns.

There is no water there, no life there…no liberty there.

Back to verse 19.

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

This great, sobering, summary statement is where I want to focus our final attention

Just before this, in verse 18 Peter wrote of those who…speak loud boasts of folly and entice by sensual passions those who barely escape from a life lived in the unreality of error.

Load boasts is a word that means “unnaturally swollen”…bombastic, arrogant.

Over the top.

Instead of people hearing it and saying “Really? I don’t think so…that sounds foolish.”

Some are taken in by the loud, confident, arrogant folly…but why?

Because they promise freedom.

Specifically, in Peter’s circumstances it was the freedom to be “Spiritually saved” and to do whatever you wanted with your body.

This false dualism was common then, and now.

Jesus saves your immortal soul, what you do with your mortal body, is up to you.

Paul addressed it in Romans 6, “Shall we continue to sin that grace may increase? God forbid, we died to sin how can we live in it any longer.”

The twisted argument was, “The more we sin, the more grace we need…sin more so you will get more grace.”

It was so dumb and irrational that I’m sure it made Paul feel like his head would explode…but for some…

“Sounds great!  What’s not to like?  I can have heaven then and whatever I want on earth now.”

Paul countered…”Why would you offer your bodies to sin to become its slave, Grace has rescued you from all that.”

Peter writes, much the same.

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Look at them, Peter writes…look closely and keep looking…do you see freedom?

If you study the lives of the “Thinkers”  in history, the influencers of the past

They have shaped the lives of millions, often in destructive ways,  but their own personal lives were train wrecks.

Carl Trueman does a masterful job of demonstrating some of this in his book: Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.

He gives the names of the thinkers and how they influenced our lives now; you can do your own research to see how messed up so many of them were in their personal lives.

Some might counter that “I know of plenty of Christians who believed in orthodoxy but lived just as messed up lives as some of these non-Christian philosophers.”

That is not a counter to Peter’s point…he would agree.

Anyone who fails to live in gospel truth is not going to experience gospel freedom.

He is specifically addressing those who promise freedom apart from faithfulness to Christ…but don’t live in freedom themselves.

Because, he writes…whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

This is indisputable…think about it.

If I am overcome by the wind or wave…I go where it wants me to go, it doesn’t matter where I want to go.

The same is true of sexual appetite, or quest for power, or pride, or anger…you name it.

Whatever overcomes me…but definition, enslaves me…removes liberty from me.

There is one exception in all of human experience…when I am overcome by Christ, when I become a willing bondservant as Paul wrote…I become truly free.

When I say “Yes” to Jesus, with a corresponding “no” to all that is not of faith and faithfulness…then, and only then, am I saying “yes” to liberty.

You can work this out for yourself…it is intuitive and experiential.

When you have done whatever, your current desire demands you do…whether it be something you consume with your body…drink, drug, food, sex…

Or something you consume with your mind…bitterness, fear, discontent, pride, lust

You know from experience…that self-expression took your freedom. 

So called “self-expression” is not the path to freedom.

But neither is “self-repression”…both are misguided.

Freedom is found only in surrender to Christ as King.

Ironically, or tragically…the pursuit of unrestrained passion leads to a life void of real passion.

The demand that the fire not be contained by the fireplace means our lives are burned down and there is no fire, only ash.

Fire controlled by the Spirit of God means warmth, life, beauty for us, and others…for the long haul.

Peter did not lose his passion, Christ matured it.

Those who chase passion apart from Christ, find only ash in the end

Those who chase Christ, live with an enduring, Spirit-controlled passion.

Peter experienced this personally…he wants it for his “dear friends”.

God wants it for us.

But we must resolutely believe the gospel of which Peter was a tellsmen…a transformed, passionate, eyewitness.

We must resolutely refuse to be taken in by the salesmen…who traffic in false freedom that leaves people enslaved.

There is a lot at stake here…in fact…everything is at stake.

That’s why Peter is so adamant.

*Finish with a story:

-A man I didn’t know and who was not a part of the church called me and said that he was concerned about a friend…a married, female friend who was in our church.

-He was concerned because the married friend, he said, was in an unhappy marriage and he wanted to help. 

-I don’t know why he called me or what he expected from me…but I knew the backstory.

-This man was a wolf, and he was looking to destroy a family for sensual and selfish purposes.

-I was not polite, I was not calm, I was not nice….I was a shepherd, but I was what a shepherd is to a wolf.

-I told him he was a sinful, foolish man…who would be judged if he did not back off.

-I warned the woman to stay away from him…he was a wolf and had his own, not her interests in mind.

-He was offended and shocked…I didn’t care.

The family survived…the marriage and the children…survived…and the wolf went elsewhere.

Peter was a shepherd…he loved his dear friends and that love meant he gave no quarter to wolves.

He was changed man from his earlier days and his passion was under the Spirit’s control.

But when you read this passage, you are reading the passion of a man who knew that the truth mattered in ultimate ways…literally everything is at stake.

Truth matters ultimately. 

It is not to be trifled with.

God is just, we know justice is right and good.

A just God, brings judgment…how can it be otherwise. 

But Peter was an eyewitness to Jesus…life, death, resurrection. 

The gospel, of which he was a tellsmen…was where God’s justice is satisfied and we escape God’s judgment.

He was passionate about this truth…how could he not be?

This didn’t make him angry, bitter…he would have gladly embraced any of these false teachers who repented.

He was a reflection of what Chesterton admonished:

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

May God grant us Spirit-controlled, God honoring, and others-centered passion.