The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 14, 2011


1) 2 Peter 2:17-22 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


2 Peter 2:17-22
by Tom Edwards

In continuing his description of the false teachers, Peter states in 2 Peter 2:17-19 the following: "These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.  For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved."

Peter speaks of these false teachers as being "springs without water."  Other versions render this as "wells" or "fountains."  Jude 1:12 likens these men to "clouds without water."  All of these phrases depict the same idea.  For what good would a spring, a well, or a fountain be without water to a weary and thirsty traveler on a long, sultry journey?  Though a well might appear promising to the one dying of thirst as he sees it from a distance and approaches it, how disappointing it will be, however, for that thirsty soul to find it only dry.  And what good would clouds without water be for the farmer's crops?  Seeing the clouds might bring hope; but when no rain comes from them, it would turn out to be just a false hope.  These phrases correspond to what Peter goes on to say in verse 19 about the false teachers:  For though they are "promising" others "freedom," these false teachers actually have no freedom to give.  For "they themselves are slaves of corruption."

In contrast to these "springs without water," etc., consider the kind of "water" Jesus has to offer.  It is "living water," of which those who drink of it "shall never thirst" again.  For it will become in the recipient "a well of water springing up to eternal life" (Jn. 4:10-15) -- and the Lord's promises are faithful and true.  

A similar meaning for these false teachers can also be seen in 2 Peter 2:17, where they are viewed as "mists driven by a storm."  A mist is made up of small globules of water, which can do good for vegetation -- provided the mist is not driven away by strong winds first.  Some versions render "mists" as "clouds."  So again, they illustrate the false teacher who would have a promising message, but a false one that would do no good for anyone.  

In the OT, God's word is likened to the rain: "Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb" (Deut. 32:2).  Just as we realize that rain accomplishes good on the earth, even so God's word accomplishes its intended purpose wherever it goes: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Isa.  55:10,11).  

In addition to calling them "clouds without water, carried along by winds," Jude also metaphorically refers to the false teachers, in the same verse, as being "autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted" (Jude 1:12).  These particular trees were those that were supposed to be fruitful in the autumn -- but not when portraying the false teachers.  Not only are they pictured as fruitless, when referring to them, but they are also doubly dead and uprooted. Well, that explains why they are fruitless.  Just being dead would be dead enough, but these are doubly dead and uprooted!  We certainly wouldn't expect any good fruit from a tree like that.  

Peter than continues by showing that what is in store for these false teachers is "the black darkness" (2 Peter 2:17).  According to Vincent Word Studies, this darkness denotes "a well-understood doom."  Perhaps it reminds you of what Jesus taught in His parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14, in which God's kingdom is being compared to a king giving a wedding feast for his son.  The king sends out many servants to call those who were invited, but they are not willing to come. So the king sends out some other slaves to those who had been invited, but they paid no attention; and some of them even seized the slaves and mistreated some and killed others.  The king then told his slaves that those who had been invited were not worthy to come, so he sent his slaves to invite all who they could find -- and many came.  But one man was there who did not have on the proper wedding garment.  As a result, the king ordered his servants to cast this man "into the outer darkness," where there would be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 22:13).   

The "darkness" comes from the same Greek word that is also used in Matthew 25:30, pertaining to the "outer darkness" that the "worthless slave" will be cast into.  There the wicked slave was the one-talent man who had simply hid his master's talent, while the fve-talent and the two-talent men used theirs.  The one-talent man gave the excuse that he was afraid and knew his master to be a hard man, but the master simply called him "wicked" and "lazy."

The Greek word for "black" (zophos) in 2 Peter 2:17, in referring to this "black darkness," is also used in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6.  Both of these verses refer to Tartarus, that place of punishment: "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [tartaroo] and committed them to pits of darkness [zophos], reserved for judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4).  "And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness [zophos] for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6).   So this blackness or darkness is used in these verses to pertain to the torment side of the Hadean realm.  

In 2 Peter 2:18,19, Peter writes, "For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved."

Their "speaking out arrogant words of vanity" seems to parallel with what Jude says of the false teachers in Jude 1:13: They are like "wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam...."  Compare this to Isaiah 57:20: "But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud."   According to Guy N. Woods, "The reference is obviously to the flotsam and jetsam borne on the crest of the waves and cast up from time to time on the beach. These men with their 'great swelling words of vanity' (2 Pet. 2:18) were like the great waves that break in foam and leave the beach littered with tangled and worthless refuse."  

The "vanity" in the phrase "arrogant words of vanity" comes from the Greek word "mataiotes," which actually means more than what we would normally think of as vanity.  Thayer defines it as "1) what is devoid of truth and appropriateness 2) perverseness, depravity 3) frailty, want of vigor."  This same Greek word is used to express the mind of the Gentiles who had given themselves over to much ungodliness. Because there was no place for God in their hearts, they are said to have had "futility of mind" (See Ephesians 4:17-19).  So their minds were not merely void of the truth, but also filled with corruption.  The swelling words of the false teachers were also corrupt and designed to lead astray.  As Jude points out in Jude 1:16,  "...following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage."

Though probably not locked into the same kind of corruption as these whom Peter writes of, we think of the many today who are "promising freedom" while they themselves are still enslaved.  For instance, what about those who teach salvation by faith only or grace only -- without the need for water baptism?  How many in our time have been led to believe they have been set free in Christ; when, in actuality, they have only be deceived?  Millions of people!!!

The teaching of many of the false teachers in Peter's day was actually a "libertinism" -- rather than a true liberty.  For many were wrongfully teaching a freedom that allowed them to engage in sinful indulgences, without being condemned by any law.  As we noted in Jude 1:4, these false teachers had "change[d] the grace of our God into a license for immorality" (NIV) -- indicating that they believed God's grace would cover them even while engaging in immoral sins, as if they were now exempt from any law pertaining to these wrongs. 

Peter closes this chapter by making it clear that salvation can be lost -- 2 Peter 2:20-22: "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"

Clearly, this is talking about Christians who had fallen away.  For they had "escaped the defilements of the world" through their faith in and obedience to the gospel, but then they became "again entangled" and "overcome" by the sinful things of the world.  So they had been cleansed from their sins, but now they have become defiled again by them -- like a sow that was washed, but then rolls in the mud again.  Peter shows it would have been better for these to have never known the truth because now their last state is worse than their first.  But prior to their knowing the truth, they were lost in sin and bound for hell.  That was the first state Peter is referring to.  So how could that be better than what they now have?  Would it not be because now, since after coming to the knowledge of the truth, they should have known better than to go back into sin?  So by their doing so, it is worse.  For they had gotten on that road that leads to eternal life -- heaven was almost in their grasp -- but now they have foolishly departed from all of that; and they will have no one to blame but themselves.  

But if they will repent and meet God's conditions for pardon, they can be restored.  They will then be back in a right relationship with the Lord; and if they strive to maintain that, their souls will be saved from an eternal separation from God.  James refers to this in James 5:19,20: "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."  Again, it is obvious this is talking about Christians who would fall away.  For they would be from "any among you" (among the Christians).   Also, would not a person have to be in the truth (a Christian) before he or she can stray from it?  And, lastly, James shows that if those who have fallen away will turn from their sin, they will then save their soul from death.  What death?  Not physical death because even the righteous die physically.  So this death is pertaining to a spiritual death, such as the way Adam and Eve "died" when they ate from the tree in the garden which God commanded them not to.  They lived on physically, but they died spiritually when they sinned.  And since death is viewed as a "separation," then this indicates a separation from God, which will ultimately be in hell -- an eternal separation.  That is what spiritual death leads to, and that is the state James shows in this passage that a Christian can fall into.  This is also the state that the lost soul is in before coming to Christ.  For in referring to the life of the Ephesians prior to their conversion, Paul says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world..." (Eph. 2:1,2).  But it is the Lord's desire that none perish, but all come to repentance and be saved (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4) -- and that will be received by all those who will submit to God's plan of salvation.  Won't you do that, too, if you haven't already?                 


News & Notes

There is a gospel meeting going on this week at the South College Road church of Christ in Lafayette, Sunday through Wednesday, with Alex Caldwell as the guest speaker.  Services begin at 7 PM on the weeknights.  They meet at 507 S. College Road. 

Let those of us who are Christians also continue praying for the following people:

Helen Bott (my sister), who recently had surgery, due to cancer.  She is now awaiting the results of a biopsy that was made on a lymph node.  We are hoping and praying that all of her cancer had been eliminated, and will know soon.

Wilson Hagan (Cheryl Crew's brother-in-law), who will be having his gall bladder removed this Thursday.  Due to all his health problems, it puts him at greater risk when undergoing surgery.  

Danny Holton,
who has pancreatic cancer in its 4th stage. 

R.J. Evans, who will soon begin treatment for a slow-developing prostate cancer, caught in its early stage.      

Jackie Evans (R.J.'s wife), who is seeking a remedy to eliminate a 3-year back pain.   

Bill Barfield, an 85-year old with prostate cancer, whose mobility was also impaired several years ago, due to a stroke.    

Bill Holt, who is still recuperating at home, after his recent hospital stay.  It was good too see him last Wednesday evening back at church.  He looked well, and actually had lost about 60 pounds!  For it wasn't until about the last day of his 3-week stay in the hospital until he had food.  Prior, they were feeding him intravenously.  His strength isn't all completely back yet, but it is getting there.  

Cheryl Crews, who had been treated with antibiotics for an infection; but it came back again, soon after she discontinued the medicine.  She has also been suffering from migraines and other health problems.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)