Introduction: I have two final messages left from 2 Peter. The first is what I believe to be a sobering message, the second a scary one.
First in 2 Peter 2, we read about the greatest problem the church faces. It’s not a danger from without, but rot from within.
Have you ever picked up an apple and taken a big bite out of it just to discover that it is rotten inside or it has a worm inside? I remember as I grew up there was a big apple tree on the edge of a field in back of our house and it often produced a lot of apples. My dad didn’t spray the trees for insects and when the apples were finally red ripe for the picking, I remember how hard it was to find a good one! Most of them had worm holes or rotten spots which were clearly visible. More than once I thought I found a really good one, without holes. But then it would turn out to be the perfect deception instead. I would bite into it and yuck, and a worm would be hidden inside.
I later discovered their secret. The worms don’t bore in from the outside in, rather they lay their eggs on the blossoms before the apple even begins to form. Then, when they hatch they’re already inside the apple, and they’ve got a smorgasbord of food from which they eat their way into adulthood. Finally, they eat their way out of the apple and that’s where the wormholes come from! They creep in unnoticed and secretly brought about a destructive rottenness.
Imagine a church like that! The early church was still in bloom when the enemy, Satan laid his deceptive eggs of destruction. By the time Peter wrote this letter, there were already rotten signs in many of the churches where these false teachers and false prophets were doing their dirty work. The apostle Paul also addressed these same problems in his letters to the churches, especially the ones in Galatia and Corinth.
Jesus warned HisHhHis disciple that this would happen. In Matthew 13 Jesus gives several parables on the kingdom. The parable of the wheat and the tares is especially insightful regarding the message of 2 Peter. I Would like to Read Matt. 13: 24-30and then at the explanation that Jesus gives the disciples in verses 36-43.
The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” And then…
The Parable of the Weeds Explained
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Jesus helps us to understand that even the church suffers from the enemy’s work, but we can rest assured that a day of reckoning is coming.
In this parable Jesus points out that among the sons of the kingdom there will be servants of the enemy. God will allow this to continue until the time of harvest. At that time, those who are faithful will be gathered into glory and those that are working for the enemy will be cast into outer darkness.
Now read 2 Peter 2 (1-3 & 10a-22) and think about this parable as I do so.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”
“Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings;11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.[e]14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
Even today there are those who may seem like faithful members but may eventually turn out to be bad eggs sowed into our churches. For many months or even years all may seem well but then these individuals begin to cause a ruckus, they teach and promote error, things that are unscriptural. They convince other members to agree with them and follow them. Sometimes they even get good Bible based preachers fired, and without realizing it, they do their best to hamper the work of Jesus.
The question for us is, ‘Am I one of those good seeds that will bear good fruit or a someone who has wormed there way in and is ready to cause trouble?’
How do you distinguish a seed Christian from a worm? 2 Peter gives us a list of characteristics to help us. By the way, one of the gracious things about the people of God is that we put up with so much; sometimes too much and put up with individual who should be rebuked.
Let me quickly give you the characteristics of the worms that infest the apple of God’s eye. This is the list from 2 Peter 2. – Verse1- They will cleverly teach destructive heresies (false truths). They think we should do this or that because its something that they want. Sometimes they even deny the Master, who Jesus really is and what He has done.
– Verse 2 – Many will follow or go along with their ideas or evil false teachings. They may even eventually cause others to blaspheme the way of truth.
– Verse 3 – They are motivated by covetousness or greed and the exploit the faithful with deceptive words. (At the core they are selfish or self centered)
– Verse 10 – Some of them openly walk in worldly lust.
– They also despise authority.
– Verse 13 – They love to indulge in pleasure. And they delight in deception.
– Verse 12 – They speak evil of things they do not understand.
– Verse 15 – They love the wages of unrighteousness. (forbidden fruit is sweetest to them)
– Verse 18 – They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. They lure weaker brethren to fall back into sin.
Finally, Peter tells us the shocking condition of their souls here. It looks like they have actually obeyed the gospel and escaped for a while the evils of the world. They have a knowledge of the Lord that has saved them… for a while. But now they are entangled again.
And Peter says these sobering words: “They are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” Did you hear that? They are worse off now that they have come to Christ and turned away than if they had never come to him in the first place! How can you be worse off than someone who is going to hell because they never knew Christ? Only in this way, these who turn away in a manner can’t seem to get back… ever. Peter said that they have become like dogs returning to their own vomit or pigs who do what they do because of what they are. Like worms in the apple, they have an effect on that which they are involved in, they make it rot because that’s what worms do.
Hebrews 6:4-6 gives us a haunting warning: “4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming ageand who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
This tells me that we who have had the glorious advantage of hearing the message of the gospel over and over and especially we who have named the name of Jesus Christ in baptism and have received his glorious forgiving grace… We better remain true!
I’ve seen this happen to people. I’ve seen people come to Christ and obey the gospel and then turn away and become worse off than they were before. Have you ever seen this?
And certainly any prodigal son that comes home is welcomed with open arms. Jesus seeks out the lost sheep to bring them back into the fold. Peter is not talking about lost sheep here. He is talking about a different sort. He’s describing wolves, not sheep. These are dogs and pigs, not weak Christians.
The Bible is clear. There are some who will arise from within who are dangerous, destructive, deliberately deceptive, demonic, evil workers. There is a different kind of treatment for those that do such things.
As elders, as shepherds we have a responsibility to uncover them, isolate them, and discipline them. If anyone will not receive discipline, they are a danger to the rest of us and must be put out of the church. Just as anyone who will not submit to the leadership of a coach can’t be good for the team, anyone who undermines the leadership of the elders of a church can’t be good for that church. Even an elder that will not submit to their fellow elders is a danger to the church. That’s why Paul said, “Keep watch of yourselves and the flock of which God has made you overseers.” Acts 20:28
Peter had no qualms about describing their end. Listen to what he says:– In verse 1 he says, – “They bring swift destruction on themselves.”
– Verse 3 – ‘Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.’
– Verse 9 ‘The Lord will keep the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment’
– Verse 12 – ‘Like beasts they will be destroyed’
– Verse 13 – ‘They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.’
– Verse 17 – ‘blackest darkness is reserved for them’
It doesn’t look hopeful for them. Theoretically, they can repent and be saved. The Bible indicates that plainly here that they will just not do it.
What is Peter doing with this chapter?
Several things. But mainly he is warning us about the end of those that do not follow what he has already taught us to do in chapter one.. to grow and mature and become more Christ like.
– He also gives us the inside story on what it is like to come into the family of God and then turn into an enemy in that church family. Like a worm in the apple, this person can do much hidden damage, but God will not let anyone who does this get away with it. Jesus still shepherding His church and will protect us from harm.
God loves us with an undying love. He has given you his Son to prove that fact and He will never leave us nor forsake us. Listen to his words of comfort to strengthen your heart… Read 2:4-9 “4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them into gloomy dungeonsto be held for judgment; 5 if 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; 6 if 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; 7 and 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)— 9 if 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.”
Maybe you are here today and have been on the fence regarding your Christian walk. Maybe you want to follow Jesus, but you have reservations about fully committing your life to Him. I wish there were words I could say that would convince you that Jesus Christ is the only way. I wish I could compel you to follow my Lord and Savior. He is the only way to eternal salvation. He deserves your devotion. He demands your complete surrender.
If you have a problem with the church and what we are doing, go to the Bible and make sure what God’s will is in the matter first before you say anything or start grumbling. Maybe you or the way you are thinking is in error.
If you still have questions or concerns then go to the elders or leaders of the church and ask them about what you are concerned about. Don’t go behind their backs and stir up trouble before talking to them. If you are right about a spiritual concern which they may have overlooked you may be pleasantly surprised at their response. Even mature elders should be open to revealed truth in God’s word if something has been overlooked.
Also accept the possibility that you may be wrong, that your personal feelings or preferences may not be the best thing for the entire church, especially concerning non-spiritual or non-Biblical issues. Sometimes love and keeping peace demands us humbly keeping our opinions to our self rather that complaining and stirring up unnecessary trouble.
Jesus prayed that we would all be at peace with one another and be one, just as HE and the Father are one. Read John 17:20-23
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Make that effort to be one with you brothers and sisters, just as Jesus and the Father are one.”