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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

2 Peter 2

 

 

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Verses 1-22

2 Peter 2:1. False teachers — who bring in damnable heresies. Sects leading to perdition, and to the extreme of punishment. Who were they? They were yet to come, in part; the roots only began as yet to shoot; hence the apostle says, there shall be false teachers among you. Now these were roots, or offsets of the gnostics or knowing ones. This sect boasted of superior knowledge, and assumed superior liberty. They broke through the oriental restraint, and introduced women to their feasts. There was no crime that they did not glory to commit. The bacchanalians of Rome, described by Livy in the darkest shades, seem to have received their maxims from this sect by means of a Greek who brought the curse to Rome. The mysteries of their orgies were concealed under the idea of music rooms. The senate most laudably condemned them to death and banishment, being guilty of a singular system of drunkenness, whoredom, and murder. But what had they to do with the christian church; because, as they plagued the world prior to christianity, and perpetuated their system for ages, they could not fail to be known? Answer: some of those hypocrites crept in privily as teachers to make a gain of godliness, and to deceive the unwary.

The Cerinthians may also be alluded to by St. Peter. This sect despised baptism. — Epiphanius heres. 28. They affirmed that Jesus Christ was a mere man. Iren. ib. 1. c. 25. They abused the doctrine of the millennium, as an age of carnal pleasure. Irenæus says that St. John seeing Cerinthus in the bath at Ephesus, said on perceiving him, “Let us go out quickly, lest the building should fall and crush us.” Lib. 3.

The Carpocratians were another sect who greatly troubled the primitive church; and the heathen often confounded the morals of the one with the other. This sect rejected the old testament, and said that the decalogue, or ten commandments, were not binding upon christians. Epiph. heres. 13. They affirmed that Jesus was the son of Joseph; and differed from other men, only by surpassing them in impiety. They did more; they said that the difference between good and evil was only in opinion, and consequently launched the reins to corruption, and brought upon themselves the destruction foretold in this chapter, and by St. Paul, and St. Jude. Now, as the christian church encreased in number and in wealth, these heretics often brought upon them very great shame and grief, denying the Lord that bought them.

St. Peter had in his eye, through the Spirit of prophecy, the Arian apostasy, which caused the candlestick to be removed from the east, and the mosques of mahomet to succeed the temples of the Lord. Happily, as Eusebius remarks, the churches in the western empire were warned on the breaking out of this controversy to hold fast the pure faith as once delivered to the saints. This alarum of the venerable apostle is to be associated with the voice of Christ. Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24. Also of Paul, in Acts 20:29-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Timothy 4:1.

2 Peter 2:3. Through covetousness, or greediness, shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; but their long-impending judgment doth not linger, neither doth their destruction slumber. The character of a true teacher is to be known by this one test, — whether he be seeking the salvation of souls, or his own sordid gain. The false prophets alluded to, were those of Jezebel and of after times, walking in their imaginary revelations. The same illusive spirit in men called christian teachers, differed only in circumstances, not in character; they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2 Peter 2:4. God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness — in Tartaro adstrictos tradit, restricted them to Tartarus — to be reserved unto judgment. As St. Peter uses the word Tartarus, and as it is the prominent word in the poets for hell, Æneid. 6., I can see no reason why it should not be retained in modern versions. As the fall of angels led to the fall of Adam, it is probable that the patriarchs knew more facts by revelation and by tradition than are come down to us. It is said, “they sinned — they kept not their first estate — they abode not in the truth;” that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. This, according to the fathers, and largely so in our Milton, Satan refused to do. But those apostate teachers did worse; “they denied the Lord that bought them,” and denied him after knowing the way of truth!

2 Peter 2:9. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations. The sacred writer knew from painful experience that the godly in the present life are exposed to the power of temptation, and that the Lord only can effect their deliverance. Christ himself was tempted in the wilderness; but when the prince of this world came he found nothing in him favourable to his designs, and temptation had no power over him. It is not so with his servants; in them the evil one finds much moral weakness, a comparative ignorance of his devices, a relaxation of their watchfulness, a party within ready to listen to the voice of the charmer, who therefore finds but little difficulty in drawing them into his snare, and entangling them in his net. But He who knows the weakness of the tempted, and the power of the adversary, knows also how to deliver the godly out of temptation, either by enabling them to resist and to overcome, or by making a way for their escape.

When Satan desired to have Peter, that he might sift him as wheat, Jesus prayed for him that his faith might not fail, and at length delivered him out of temptation by a look of mercy in the hall of the highpriest. And still all our safety depends on his intercession, which brings to our aid the succours of his Spirit, and the merciful interpositions of his providence. He delivered Noah, as mentioned in this chapter, by bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. He delivered Lot, by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes: 2 Peter 2:5-7. And if we keep the word of his patience, he will also keep us from the hour of temptation. Revelation 3:10. Our great Highpriest before the throne having himself suffered, being tempted, is able to succour them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15.

2 Peter 2:10. That walk after the flesh — and despise government. The Jews, at the time of the writing of this epistle, were beginning the war against the Romans. The old proverb was realized in them: He whom God destroys is first mad. The reins were launched to passion, and the tongue to infamy.

2 Peter 2:14. Having eyes full of adultery. The Latin versions read, “adulteries,” for some copies have the word in the plural: μοιχαλις is literally “adultress.” But vices and virtues being clothed by the ancients in the feminine dress, the sin seems to be so designated here. Those false teachers, the vermin of the primitive church, like the sons of Eli at the altar, had their eyes and hearts, even in the lovefeasts, wandering after the objects of desire. And that cannot cease from sin. — Non cessantes à peccato, that do not cease from sin.

Beguiling unstable souls: δελεαζοντες, a fisherman’s phrase, that as he angles, so those men seduce souls by the bait of present or of promised pleasures. It is said of antichrist in the latter day, “Neither shall he regard — the desire of women.” Daniel 11:37. Or he shall disregard the hallowed bonds of wedlock. — Greedy of gain, the more to support their sinful desires, they are cursed children, sons of excision, who shall be cut off from the house and altar of the Lord. Jude, writing nearly at the same time, and of the same apostates, calls them clouds without rain, and wells without water; true wisdom is not in their breast. What more can we say? Is not the best comment we can give of men so depraved, a horror of all the miseries into which they are plunged, and a terror of the judgments suspended over them by a vindictive God.

REFLECTIONS.

St. Peter having declared the true faith on which the church is built, raises a strong voice against the false and profligate teachers and heretics, whom he foresaw would attempt to overthrow it by denying the Lord of glory, who had given his life a ransom for men. This is a sin which comprises the essence of every crime; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? And would he not have been equally moved, had he lived to the present evil times, to see a multitude of learned professors in the colleges of Europe joining their voices with Arians, Socinians, and others, to overthrow the faith once delivered to the saints. For the present, they speak rather in the dark, but resemble the ancient heretics in being greedy of gain, and die leaving heaps of gold for their heirs, because they know not the charity of him who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/2-peter-2.html. 1835.

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