Betty and I enjoy hiking through the woods. We often plan our vacations around those hikes. Since we seek out those trails rated as moderate to rugged it not unusual for us to cross a bridgeless stream using stepping stones. Sometimes those stones are placed and maintained by the Park Service. Sometimes they’re the natural stones and logs that make up the stream bed. Care is taken as we test the surety of each stone, a hiking stick at the ready to provide additional support. Our next steps in the Walk Through 2nd Peter is like crossing a broad stream on stepping stones.
Please read 2 Peter 2:4-11. For the sake of space, I won’t reprint it here. In order to continue Peter’s flow, we must reach back for a moment to verse 3. “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” The context is concerning false-teachers. To reiterate something from our last lesson wrong teaching is not always false teaching. Some teaching is simply wrong while other teaching is meant to harm or abuse the flock of Christ. In today’s verses, Peter underscores the point that judgment and punishment of false-teachers belongs to God.
Examples of Judgement
Peter provides three examples of God’s judgment, the incarceration of the fallen angels, the flood of Noah’s time, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. All of these are exercises of God’s judgment. Harsh, painful, ultimate judgment. In each case, there is little doubt that those affected “earned” their judgment. The angels followed Lucifer’s rebellion and were removed from heaven. It boggles my mind that creatures who see God could get so puffed up with pride. The human race in Noah’s time became very corrupt. Even so, God gave them all opportunity to turn around. 120 years, in fact, the time it took Noah to build and populate the ark. Sodom was also warned about the coming judgment but refused to turn back. Their corruption was so complete they rioted to rape the angels visiting Lot.
To these examples, we could add the people of Nineveh that God planned to judge. They turned around and avoided judgment when warned by the reluctant prophet Jonah. There are many judgments against various city-states found in the Old Testament prophetic books. Leaping forward to the New Testament we find the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira as they tried to lie to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5. The blindness of Simon the Magician in Acts 8 who tried to buy the power of the Spirit.
Peter’s point is that God knows how to judge and will at the appointed time judge false teachers that harm, abuse, and corrupt Christ’s flock. As he says, God knows how “to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” With that promise came another. Not only does God know how to reserve punishment but how to, “rescue the godly from temptation.”
In the examples of God’s judgment, Peter also points out God’s rescues of Noah, his family, and Lot in the midst of corrupt generations. This is not to lift up either men beyond the recognition of God’s work in and through them. They both had their successes and challenges. What’s interesting to me is that having seen the destruction of their worlds some of the corruption continued to follow them. But also notice that God did rescue them from the temptation of their culture. In our day and age, they would have been considered politically incorrect.
There are two reasons why this is important to us. The first is the stress relieving fact that God is in control and we can trust Him in all things. Specifically, His judgment and our preservation. The second is that it removes a motive for us to get into the judgment business. One common stated motive is to “protect the flock.” Sheep make pretty poor guard dogs unless there is a wolf under that fleece. The point is that we can trust God to judge, to protect, to guide, and if necessary to rescue.
And then we get to verses ten and eleven. Speaking of false teachers Peter says they are
“Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” We aren’t sure what Peter was referencing “when they revile angelic majesties” since it’s not in the context. It’s one of those instances when we’re reminded that we are reading someone else’s mail. Was this over-exuberance in spiritual warfare? Was this some form of commanding angels? We don’t know.
Even though the context may be lost to us the lesson Peter was pushing is not. We are told that even the angels do not bring a reviling – abusive, angry, insulting – judgment against their fallen demonic brethren. Consider this in Jude, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” (Jude 8–9, NASB95) By inference, Peter is saying that neither should we revile false teachers with abusive, angry, and insulting judgments.
Walking the Stones
Putting this all together gives us a pathway of stones across the wide stream of false teaching. Trust in God’s judgment even if it waits until the last judgment. Trust in God’s guidance, direction, protection, and ability to rescue. Recognize the differences between warning and attack, disputing and judgment, questioning and insulting when confronting false teaching. God gave time for Noah’s neighbors, Sodom, and Nineveh to turn back to Him. If we fail to recognize the differences we may fall and join them in the stream.
Confronting false teaching is never easy. Our most potent rebuttal is shining the light of Jesus by living the truth in all we do. Reflecting the light of love, grace, and holiness that He freely shines on us. If Jesus is our all in all nothing else can be, not even a false teacher.