2 Peter 2:4-10
Greetings, everyone! It’s Tuesday, a great day to come together as the people of God for some special time in the Word of God, and I’m happy to know you’re here today as we move forward in our look at the second chapter of 2 Peter. Since the Scriptures hold so much for us today, let’s go right to prayer and prepare our hearts and minds for what’s before us.
Almighty God, you have given us your Son. Not as an ornament for our shelves or a cozy idea to hold close to our hearts to make us feel good...no, you’ve given us your Son to bridge a huge, iniquity-laden gap and bring us back to you. You’ve given us your Son as an offering for sin. You’ve given us your Son to make right what was terribly wrong in our lives. In Him and Him alone we have received the gift of your salvation. Today we want to say thank you. We ask that you bless this brief time we have together in our Bibles, that it would be honoring to you and profitable for us and our learning. This we ask in the precious and saving name of our Savior Jesus Christ, amen.
As we get started today, Peter continues to talk about the nature of false prophets and their ultimate judgment by God. Our focus: a warning for all.
2 Peter 2:4-10
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.
Sometimes the price you pay for a bad choice is steep. Justice can be swift and the consequences painful. Ask a certain boy I know. One week during his allotted video game time, he chose to use the computer in the office rather than his game system. “Please be sure to watch your time and stop when time is up,” his mother told him. “Okay Mom,” he said. The problem was that, unsupervised in the office, once his time expired he made the conscious choice to continue playing — for an additional half-hour. Coming back into the kitchen later, he even called himself on it: “Okay, I know I’m in trouble,” he said. And he was! Because his infraction entailed conscious choice and willful disobedience, especially after he had been given an appropriate warning beforehand, he not only forfeited his electronics time for the rest of the week, he also lost some trust which took time and effort to regain.
For most of us, knowingly over-extending our allotted video game time probably doesn’t speak to our own childhoods, but if we break things down to their lowest common denominator, I’m pretty sure we can all remember similar times when, as kids, we willfully transgressed a clear boundary. Growing in wisdom and stature comes with its share of growing pains, doesn’t it. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes the lessons we learn along the way are difficult ones. The good news about growing pains, however, is that there are usually people there to help us through them, and with a healthy dose of grace and mercy we usually come out on the other side a little stronger and a little wiser. Yet, that’s not always the case. On the flip side of that coin, some people — despite even the most copious amounts of grace and mercy — become hardened instead of stronger, and rather than grow in wisdom, they grow in cunning and deceit.
Verses 4-10: In the passage we’ve just read, Peter is continuing to speak about false teachers, their impact on the church, and the ultimate judgment that will befall them as enemies of the Gospel. What we have before us in light of that is a strong witness to the just and holy nature of God. God, we are told — though He takes no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked — is bound by the nature of who He is and by the attributes which define Him to mete out consequences for sin, because He cannot deny His own holiness. Such will be the case for those who through conscious choice and willful disobedience distort or malign the message of salvation in Christ. To underscore this point, Peter gives us three examples of God’s judgment in history: the angels who sinned, sent to hell and imprisoned in gloomy dungeons; the people of the ancient world, condemned by the flood because of their ungodliness; and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by fire because of their wickedness. In each case we are told, essentially, that God acted according to His perfect nature and was absolutely justified in doing what He did. At the same time, however, we are also given two examples of God rescuing the righteous, even as He judged the unrighteous: He saved Noah and his family from the flood, and likewise brought Lot safely out of Sodom before it and Gomorrah were consumed.
God’s judgment, then, is true. He rightly condemns and rightly saves. Just as in His holy wrath He condemns those who reject Him, in His tender mercy He knows how to rescue those who belong to Him. In fact, the pattern we see in the case of Noah and Lot is the same pattern that we see throughout Scripture: salvation for the just prior to the condemnation of the unjust; the rescue of those who belong to God before the destruction of those who have turned away from Him. Pulling it all together, the application comes in verse 10. In light of the reality of false teachers peddling their influence among the church and doing damage to Christ’s people (remember, that’s the overarching context of the passage), God will be faithful to judge those false teachers according to their wickedness and their deceitful and deceiving hearts. As they have rejected Him, giving themselves over to the corrupt desire of their sinful nature and despising the Lordship of Christ, they will reap the consequences of their actions. It’s not that there is an absence of mercy for them; it’s that in their hardness of heart they have rejected God and all that He offers to the sinful people He so deeply loves.
As we wrap up for the day, if you’re anything like me you might be taken aback a bit by these strong words regarding God and His judgment. You might even be thinking of your own sin – and the fact that your sin demands punishment as well. When we see the power of the law at work and realize our total undoing before a holy God, it can be a terrifying thing. But here is where that good dose of grace and mercy comes in to help us through and bring us to the other side: just as Noah and Lot were counted righteous not because of their sinless lives, but because they believed God, the same is true for you and me in the finished work of Jesus at the cross. Our righteousness comes not through a sinless life, but through the fact that our sin was paid for in full by Christ. Christ, in fact, is our righteousness, and because of that, He is also our hope and our peace. That’s something to rejoice in today. As you grow in the wisdom of God’s righteous acts of judgment over His creation, you can at the same time rest in the knowledge that in your Savior, you have been judged righteous through the shedding of His blood. There’s more to this, of course, and we’ll be sure to talk about it together when we meet again.
God bless you richly in our Savior, everyone — I’m grateful for you and for your time today, and I’ll look forward to seeing you tomorrow to continue on this topic. Until then, have a terrific day, and the joy of the Lord be your strength!