How should we respond to and apply passages in Scripture that clearly refer to false teachers? Especially those false teachers who, like the ones in 2 Peter 2:1-22, once knew the truth, yet chose to forsake it (2 Peter 2:21)? Certainly, the obvious applications come to mind: stay away from these kinds of false teachers; be aware of and steer clear of their teaching; preach these passages firmly and courageously in order to warn our people of the danger of false teaching and false teachers. Yet, I think there is more here for us as Christians. The question is: how do regenerate and eternally secure Christians respond personally to a passage about false teachers? I would suggest it is by allowing these passages to serve as warnings.

In 2 Peter 2:1-22, the apostle denounces the ungodly character and ungodly actions of these false teachers: they deny Christ, they follow sensuality and exploit others; they are greedy, blasphemous and creatures of instinct; they are blots and blemishes and waterless springs; they are proud, boastful and slaves of corruption. A genuine Christian, on the other hand, will hate this kind of sin; not only—not even primarily—in a false teacher, but any remnant of it he finds in himself. Thus, we can quarry the following questions from a passage like this: where do I see the tendency in my heart to follow sensuality and exploit others? Where in my life do I tend toward greed? Am I guilty of blasphemy? Where is there pride in my life? Where am boastful?

Scripture makes it clear that it is impossible for a genuine Christian to fall into a state like the one described in 2 Peter 2:1-22. But by what means does God keep a regenerate Christian from falling into a state like the one described in 2 Peter 2:1-22? It is by giving him a heart that despises the thought of ending up like those depicted in this passage. A Christian is both confident he can never fall away, and he takes care that he never does. When we come to passages like 2 Peter 2:1-22, therefore, we are benefited when we use them, not only as a prompt to be discerning about false teachers, but also as warnings to stay far away from the sin that characterizes them.

5 thoughts on “Blots and Blemishes: How Should Christians Apply 2 Peter 2:1-22?

  1. Charles,

    I think I know what you are getting at, but could you be a little more specific so I can make sure that I don’t assume too much and then end up not answering your question at all : )


  2. I have spent a fair amount of time studying 2 Peter, and I also probably have a great deal of affinity with your overall theological perspective, but I wonder how you arrive where you do textually, that is, from 2 Peter itself. On the surface, it appears that you are making an application from 2 Peter that is built upon texts outside of 2 Peter. Is that the case? If it is, I wonder if that is the best way to proceed, especially since 2 Peter makes or implies its own application (e.g., 3:17-18). But if you can make your case from 2 Peter, it would help me since, as I have noted, I probably share much of your overall theological perspective.

  3. Charles,

    Sorry I have not yet responded to this comment; I was away from my computer for the past day-and-a-half.

    I think your questions are: 1) How do I support my final paragraph from the text of 2 Peter? 2) Am I making my argument from texts outside of 2 Peter? 3) If so, do I think this is the best way to proceed since 2 Peter seems to be making its own clear application in 3:17-18?

    1) My last paragraph is more a theological argument than it is an exegetical argument based on the text of 2 Peter. But even so, I don’t think that the text of 2 Peter would contradict any of what I said in that paragraph.

    2) Yes.

    3) I think your point about 3:17-18 is excellent; I do think that text is the key to understanding how we are to apply 2:1-22. The more I reflect on the post and on your comments, the more I think It would have been better for me to bring this text to bear on my argument in order to allow the meaning and intent of II Peter shape my theological understanding of assurance and perseverance rather than the other way around. I do think we are most likely to develop a biblically faithful theology when we allow every text to have its full voice in its context. Perhaps I could have proceeded with more care in this regard.


  4. Hi Derek,
    I just came across your blog, and was immediately interested in this post, as I just started blogging a few weeks ago, and am presently putting some summaries of work I’ve done on Jude on the blog. I pastor a small church in downtown Portland, Grace Bible Church.
    Anyway, if you have the time, I’d appreciate you looking at my blog, esp. the Jude entries. I appreciated your work on 2 Pet, and resonate with it, except I’m still working through determining whether the FT’s spoken of in the pastorals, Acts 20, 2 Pet, Jude, etc. must be unregenerate, or could possibly be simply shipwrecked in faith, unrepentant, etc. (I guess it’s the assurance/perseverance issue, mentioned above, at its heart.) May God continue to bless you, brother!
    Take care,
    Ken Garrett

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