2 Peter 2:13-14b “False Teachers & Their Character, Part 2: Immorality”

Suffering unrighteousness as wages of unrighteousness, considering pleasure a daytime delight. Blots and blemishes. Delighting in their deceit as they feast with you. Having eyes full of adulteresses and unceasing sin. Enticing unstable souls.


The pattern set forth in 2:1-3 continues with a focus on the immorality of the false teachers. The template not only reveals a change of topic (arrogance, immorality, greed) but also a change in dimension. By addressing their arrogance (2:10b-12), Peter focused on the false teachers’ attitude, the manner in which they engage the world. By transitioning to their immorality (vv. 13-14), Peter changes from addressing their attitude to their actions. Peter’s conclusion moves beyond their attitudes and actions to examine the ambition of greed which motivates the coming false teachers (vv. 15-16). As we examine these verses, we see more than just various character traits presented but a wholistic picture of these false teachers in their manners, means, and motivations. Having finished the discussion of their arrogant manner, Peter transitions to their immoral means.


Grammatically we should notice a participle chain throughout vv. 13-14. These present tense participles help to explain the last indicative verb, φθαρήσονται. In other words, these participles explain why false teachers will certainly be destroyed like so many unthinking animals. The first of these participles provides an explanation in the form of a principle. The three that follow expose the reality that this principle is valid. Taken in these two sets, this participle chain provides two reasons why the arrogance of the false teachers will end in destruction.


Because the Principle is Sound (v. 13a)

Suffering unrighteousness as wages of unrighteousness


Peter uses another of his word plays here, though it may not be abundantly obvious in the English. Both the verb (ἀδικέω) and the noun (ἀδικία) share the same root we translate as unrighteous. This statement is only three words in the Greek (ἀδικόυμενοι μισθὸν ἀδικίας) making the repetition all the more obvious and poignant. The meaning of this phrase is essentially: you reap what you sow. Though, it is difficult to translate into English accurately while maintaining that simple statement.


It is not accurate to say that false teaches (or any sinner) suffer unrighteousness according to their unrighteous deeds. God is just (δίκη) and therefore the consequences for sin cannot be unjust (ἀδικία). This term has a range of meaning that can focus on the moral aspect of the action (to act in an unjust manner) or the outcome of the action (to cause damage or mistreat). Peter has in mind here the outcome of an action by simply stating that false teachers will suffer damage as the wages of their moral unrighteousness, yet the simplicity of his wording is utterly lost with that kind of translation.


The point of this opening phrase is to present the principle of reaping and sowing. The coming false teachers will certainly be destroyed because they will reap what they sow. The damage they will incur (ἀδικόυμενοι) is the destruction already mentioned. This destruction is the wages of unrighteous living (μισθὸν ἀδικίας). This is a sound principle. But is this the principle to be applied in this circumstance?


Because the Principle is Necessary (vv. 13b-14b)


It is one thing to claim that false teachers live unrighteous lives and therefore will meet an unrighteous end; it is another thing to prove it. With three additional present tense participles, Peter continues his detailed account of the false teachers’ character by exposing the content of their unrighteousness (ἀδικίας). Their works and deeds are objective, observable, and measurable and are therefore indicative of their character. It is noteworthy that Peter does not take a random sampling of their deeds, but examines their influence in public, their affairs in private, and their methods in personal relationships. Here is a fair and thorough examination of their unrighteous deeds.


Public Indulgence (v. 13b)

Considering pleasure, a daytime delight. Blots and blemishes. Delighting in their deceit as they feast with you


There is a hint of Peter’s artistic flare in this first clause, but it is again lost in translation. It is possible that he implements some alliteration (δονὴν γούμενοι τὴν ἐν μέρᾳ τρυφήν) as he paints the picture of daytime hedonism. The Greek term ἥδομαι is the root of our English hedonism and carries a similar meaning. It indicates personal pleasure or delight but never in a positive or moral context. The object of desire varies in kind, but always has the singular purpose of personal delight. A pursuit of ἥδομαι is a pursuit of what gives pleasure without ever bringing morals, right or wrong, righteousness, or any such thinking into the equation. This pleasure is considered to be a daytime delight.


The term delight or indulgence (τρυφή) is not necessarily a negative idea. It is used to describe something positive like luxury or splendor, joy and delight. It is also used to describe negative indulgence and reveling. The key to understanding this phrase is in the timing, “daytime” (ἐν ἡμέρᾳ). Peter is describing a party or feast that brings joy, pleasure, or delight. A feast is by definition a luxury and could easily run to excess, indulgence, and drunken revelry. No matter what kind of feasting is involved, propriety would assume that the feasting would be conducted after the sun went down. Even a noble celebration would not waste the daylight hours in revelry when there is work to be done. Both the Greco-Roman mind and the Jew would agree that feasting is for the evening and not for daytime hours.[1]


Yet there is more at stake in this phrase than a lack of propriety. The article of previous referent combines pleasure (ἡδονὴν) and delight (τρυφήν) as an appositional unity. This delight that is being pursued is unbridled hedonism and therefore should not be excused as innocent revelry. The idea is more in line with the thought that these false teachers lack the shame to hide their sin under the cover of darkness but parade their pleasure seeking in broad daylight.[2] They do not attempt to hide their hunt for pleasure. They don’t care who knows or sees. Thus, Peter exclaims blots and blemishes!


As seen in v. 10, the nominative plurals here are independent from the grammar of the verse, standing alone as an exclamation of indictment.[3]Stain” or “blot” (σπίλον) is not used in the LXX of the OT but does appear once in Eph. 5:27 where Paul speaks of Christ’s presentation of the church in all her glory without any spot or wrinkle. On the other hand, “blemish” (μῶμος) is used repeatedly in the OT to describe any disfigurement, deformity, or defect that would disqualify an animal as a sacrifice (Lev. 22:20, 21; Num. 19:2; Deut. 15:21; 17:1) or a person for spiritual service (Lev. 21:17-23). It is worth noting Peter calls these false teachers the opposite of what he will later call the church (3:14),[4] which is also the same language he has already used of the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19).[5] In short, these people are unfit for Christ’s service and their existence is a blemishing mark upon the church. These are the warts, scabs, pimples, and boils upon the face of Christ’s bride. They will be destroyed!


The final phrase in v. 13 brings out the true danger of these disfigurements. Peter repeats the root τρυφή (delight/revel) when he says that they delight in their deception (ἐντρυφῶντες). The participle feasting together (συνευωχούμενοι) is temporal and maybe even attendant circumstance. This delighting happens in concert with the feasting, but the object of delight is the deception. What is the nature of these deceptions?


There are two options. Either (1) these feasts are simple public affairs in which the false teachers are seen by the world to be eating and making merry with Christians or (2) this is a reference to the feast of the Lord’s table. Because deception (ἀπάταις) is the object of delight, it seems best to understand these false teachers as taking particular joy in their deception of believers and infiltrating the Lord’s table.


These false teachers have a public influence and do much harm to the church’s image. Their presence mars the beauty of Christ’s bride. Their immorality is beyond dispute. They are blots and blemishes. But they will reap what they sow. They will be destroyed.


Private Debauchery (v. 14a)

Having eyes full of adulteresses and unceasing sin


Such public displays of immorality would naturally betray private debauchery, but here Peter provides some explicit detail. The Greek is much more graphic than most of our English versions. Rather than having eyes full of adultery, the text reads that their eyes are full of adulteresses. The idea is that everywhere they look they see women to sleep with. More to the point, they look upon every woman in terms of a prospective sexual partner. This is an unceasing sin in the sense that it is an ongoing issue. Their minds are completely and constantly occupied with this pursuit.[6] It is possible that these creeps are using the Lord’s Supper, or at least the communal love feast that surrounds it, as a hunting ground for willing women.[7] In any case, Jesus has already addressed this very nature and thought patter in Matt. 5:28, a saying that Peter undoubtedly has in mind here.[8] If they are publicly obnoxious, it is only because they are privately debased.


Personal Recruitment (v. 14b)

Enticing unstable souls


This is what makes every shepherd’s blood boil with righteousness indignation. False teachers infiltrate for a purpose. That purpose being the recruitment of the unstable. What we translate as enticing (δελεάζοντες) comes from a term used to describe the act of baiting or luring fish. The riotous living and licentious pleasures of false teachers are used to lure in unsuspecting and unstable souls, persons with no solid foundation. The context makes it seem as though sex itself is the bait.[9] Those who see all women as adulteresses use their powers to lure them.[10] Those who are firm in the faith will see through the bait and not be caught. This is what Peter meant when he stated that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptations (v. 9). Those who are unstable or weak are those who have heard the gospel and may even believe it intellectually. But there is no foundation, no root, no good soil in which they can grow in stability. Public revelry is obnoxious. Private debauchery is repulsive. But this personal recruitment must be answered severely. They will be destroyed!


Conclusion


Evangelicalism currently has the softest response to false teaching than at any time in history. You can teach anything you like, on any topic that you like, and you will never be reprimanded or branded a false teacher. That is, unless you call out false teaching. If you teach the Bible as having a single message, and that message being chained with authorial intention and thereby hold everything the author did not intend in contempt, then you are the only enemy evangelicalism has. All others are welcomed. If only we had Peter’s perspective of false teachers. There is no such thing as innocent false teachers or benign false teaching. It is either instructive teaching that exhorts the saints and honors God or it is destructive heresy that slanders God. There is no middle ground. It is time to call the sheep away from thieves and brigands. It is time for the elders of Christ’s church to shepherd the flock of God among them. We will give an account when the Lord returns. Will He find us faithful?


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Peter Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2006), p. 239. [2] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 323. [3] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 116-7. [4] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 351-2. [5] Hiebert, p. 117. [6] Ibid, p. 117-8. [7] Davids, p. 240. [8] Lenski, p. 324. [9] Hiebert, p. 118. [10] Lenski, p. 324.

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