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2 Peter 2:1

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But there were false prophets also among the people - In the previous chapter, 2 Peter 2:19-21, Peter had appealed to the prophecies as containing unanswerable proofs of the truth of the Christian religion. He says, however, that he did not mean to say that all who claimed to be prophets were true messengers of God. There were many who pretended to be such, who only led the people astray. It is unnecessary to say, that such men have abounded in all ages where there have been true prophets.

Even as there shall be false teachers among you - The fact that false teachers would arise in the church is often adverted to in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 24:5, Matthew 24:24; Acts 20:29-30.

Who privily - That is, in a secret manner, or under plausible arts and pretences. They would not at first make an open avowal of their doctrines, but would, in fact, while their teachings seemed to be in accordance with truth, covertly maintain opinions which would sap the very foundations of religion. The Greek word here used, and which is rendered “who privily shall bring in,” ( παρεισάγω pareisagōmeans properly “to lead in by the side of others; to lead in along with others.” Nothing could better express the usual way in which error is introduced. It is “by the side,” or “along with,” other doctrines which are true; that is, while the mind is turned mainly to other subjects, and is off its guard, gently and silently to lay down some principle, which, being admitted, would lead to the error, or from which the error would follow as a natural consequence. Those who inculcate error rarely do it openly. If they would at once boldly “deny the Lord that bought them,” it would be easy to meet them, and the mass of professed Christians would be in no danger of embracing the error. But when principles are laid down which may lead to that; when doubts on remote points are suggested which may involve it; or when a long train of reasoning is pursued which may secretly tend to it; there is much more probability that the mind will be corrupted from the truth.

Damnable heresies - αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας haireseis apōleias“Heresies of destruction;” that is, heresies that will be followed by destruction. The Greek word which is rendered “damnable,” is the same which in the close of the verse is rendered “destruction.” It is so rendered also in Matthew 7:13; Romans 9:22; Philemon 3:19; 2 Peter 3:16 - in all of which places it refers to the future loss of the soul The same word also is rendered “perdition” in John 17:12; Philemon 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, Revelation 17:11 - in all which places it has the same reference. On the meaning of the word rendered “heresies,” see the Acts 24:14 note; 1 Corinthians 11:19 note. The idea of “sect” or “party” is that which is conveyed by this word, rather than doctrinal errors; but it is evident that in this case the formation of the sect or party, as is the fact in most cases, would be founded on error of doctrine.

The thing which these false teachers would attempt would be divisions, alienations, or parties, in the church, but these would be based on the erroneous doctrines which they would promulgate. What would be the particular doctrine in this case is immediately specified, to wit, that they “would deny the Lord that bought them.” The idea then is, that these false teachers would form sects or parties in the church, of a destructive or ruinous nature, founded on a denial of the Lord that bought them. Such a formation of sects would be ruinous to piety, to good morals, and to the soul. The authors of these sects, holding the views which they did, and influenced by the motives which they would be, and practicing the morals which they would practice, as growing out of their principles, would bring upon themselves swift and certain destruction. It is not possible now to determine to what particular class of errorists the apostle had reference here, but it is generally supposed that it was to some form of the Gnostic belief. There were many early sects of so-called “heretics” to whom what he here says would be applicable.

Even denying the Lord that bought them - This must mean that they held doctrines which were in fact a denial of the Lord, or the tendency of which would be a denial of the Lord, for it cannot be supposed that, while they professed to be Christians, they would openly and avowedly deny him. To “deny the Lord” may be either to deny his existence, his claims, or his attributes; it is to withhold from him, in our belief and profession, anything which is essential to a proper conception of him. The particular thing, however, which is mentioned here as entering into that self-denial, is something connected with the fact that he had ““bought”” them. It was such a denial of the Lord “as having bought them,” as to be in fact a renunciation of the uniqueness of the Christian religion. There has been much difference of opinion as to the meaning of the word “Lord” in this place - whether it refers to God the Father. or to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word is Δεσπότης DespotēsMany expositors have maintained that it refers to the Father, and that when it is said that he had “bought” them, it means in a general sense that he was the Author of the plan of redemption, and had causeD them to be purchased or redeemed. Michaelis supposes that the Gnostics are referred to as denying the Father by asserting that he was not the Creator of the universe, maintaining that it was created by an inferior being - Introduction to New Testament, iv. 360. Whitby, Benson, Slade, and many others, maintain that this refers to the Father as having originated the plan by which men are redeemed; and the same opinion is held, of necessity, by those who deny the doctrine of general atonement. The only arguments to show that it refers to God the Father would be,

(1)that the word used here Δεσπότην Despotēnis not the usual term ( κύριος kurios) by which the Lord Jesus is designated in the New Testament; and,

(2)that the admission that it refers to the Lord Jesus would lead inevitably to the conclusion that some will perish for whom Christ died.

That it does, however, refer to the Lord Jesus, seems to me to be plain from the following considerations:

(1) It is the obvious interpretation; that which would be given by the great mass of Christians, and about which there could never have been any hesitancy if it had not been supposed that it would lead to the doctrine of general atonement. As to the alleged fact that the word used, Δεσπότης Despotēsis not that which is commonly applied to the Lord Jesus, that may be admitted to be true, but still the word here may be understood as applied to him. It properly means “a master” as opposed to a servant; then it is used as denoting supreme authority, and is thus applied to God, and may be in that sense to the Lord Jesus Christ, as head over all things, or as having supreme authority over the church. It occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18, where it is rendered “masters;” Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24,; Revelation 6:10, where it is rendered “Lord,” and is applied to God; and in Jude 1:4, and in the passage before us, in both which places it is rendered “Lord,” and is probably to be regarded as applied to the Lord Jesus. There is nothing in the proper signification of the word which would forbid this.

(2) the phrase is one that is properly applicable to the Lord Jesus as having “bought” us with his blood. The Greek word is ἀγοράζω agorazō- a word which means properly “to market, to buy, to purchase,” and then to redeem, or acquire for oneself by a price paid, or by a ransom. It is rendered “buy” or “bought” in the following places in the New Testament: Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:46; Matthew 14:15; Matthew 21:12; Matthew 25:9-10; Matthew 27:7; Mark 6:36-37; Mark 11:15; Mark 15:46; Mark 16:1; Luke 9:13; Luke 14:18-19; Luke 17:28; Luke 19:45; Luke 22:36; John 4:8; John 6:5; John 13:29; 1 Corinthians 7:30; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 13:17; Revelation 18:11 - in all which places it is applicable to ordinary transactions of “buying.” In the following places it is also rendered “bought,” as applicable to the redeemed, as being bought or purchased by the Lord Jesus: 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23, “Ye are ‹bought‘ with a price;” and in the following places it is rendered “redeemed,” Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3-4. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is true that in a large sense this word might be applied to the Father as having caused his people to be redeemed, or as being the Author of the plan of redemption; but it is also true that the word is more properly applicable to the Lord Jesus, and that, when used with reference to redemption, it is uniformly given to him in the New Testament. Compare the passages referred to above.

It is strictly and properly true only of the Son of God that he has “bought” us. The Father indeed is represented as making the arrangement, as giving his Son to die, and as the great Source of all the blessings secured by redemption; but the “purchase” was actually made by the Son of God by his sacrifice on the cross. Whatever there was of the nature of “a price” was paid by him; and whatever obligations may grow out of the fact that we are purchased or ransomed are due particularly to him; 2 Corinthians 5:15. These considerations seem to me to make it clear that Peter referred here to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he meant to say that the false teachers mentioned held doctrines which were in fact a “denial” of that Saviour. He does not specify particularly what constituted such a denial; but it is plain that any doctrine which represented him, his person, or his work, as essentially different from what was the truth, would amount to such a denial.

If he were Divine, and that fact was denied, making him wholly a different being; if he actually made an expiatory sacrifice by his death, and that fact was denied, and he was held to be a mere religious teacher, changing essentially the character of the work which he came to perform; if he, in some proper sense, “bought” them with his blood, and that fact was denied in such a way that according to their views it was not strictly proper to speak of him as having bought them at all, which would be the case if he were a mere prophet or religious teacher, then it is clear that such a representation would be in fact a denial of his true nature and work. That some of these views entered into their denial of him is clear, for it was with reference to the fact that he had bought them, or redeemed them, that they denied him.

And bring upon themselves swift destruction - The destruction here referred to can be only that which will occur in the future world, for there can be no evidence that Peter meant to say that this would destroy their health, their property, or their lives. The Greek word ( ἀπώλειαν apōleian) is the same which is used in the former part of the verse, in the phrase “damnable heresies.” See the notes. In regard, then, to this important passage, we may remark:

(1) that the apostle evidently believed that some would perish for whom Christ died.

(2) if this is so, then the same truth may be expressed by saying that he died for others besides those who will be saved that is, that the atonement was not confined merely to the elect. This one passage, therefore, demonstrates the doctrine of general atonement. This conclusion would be drawn from it by the great mass of readers, and it may be presumed, therefore, that this is the fair interpretation of the passage.

(See the supplementary 2 Corinthians 5:14 note; Hebrews 2:9 note for a general view of the question regarding the extent of the atonement. On this text Scott has well observed: “Doubtless Christ intended to redeem those, and those only, who he foresaw would eventually be saved by faith in him; yet his ransom was of infinite sufficiency, and people are continually addressed according to their profession.” Christ has indeed laid down such a price as that all the human family may claim and find salvation in him. An unhappy ambiguity of terms has made this controversy very much a war of words. When the author here says, “Christ died for others besides those who will be saved,” he does not use the words in the common sense of an actual design, on the part of Christ to save everyone. The reader will see, by consulting the notes above referred to, how much disputing might be saved by a careful definition of terms.)

(3) it follows that people may destroy themselves by a denial of the great and vital “doctrines” of religion. It cannot be a harmless thing, then, to hold erroneous opinions; nor can men be safe who deny the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. It is truth, not error, that saves the soul; and an erroneous opinion on any subject may be as dangerous to a man‘s ultimate peace, happiness, and prosperity, as a wrong course of life. How many men have been ruined in their worldly prospects, their health, and their lives, by holding false sentiments on the subject of morals, or in regard to medical treatment! Who would regard it as a harmless thing if a son should deny in respect to his father that he was a man of truth, probity, and honesty, or should attribute to him a character which does not belong to him - a character just the reverse of truth? Can the same thing be innocent in regard to God our Saviour?

(4) people bring destruction “on themselves.” No one compels them to deny the Lord that bought them; no one forces them to embrace any dangerous error. If people perish, they perish by their own fault, for:

(a)ample provision was made for their salvation as well as for others;

(b)they were freely invited to be saved;

(c)it was, in itself, just as easy for them to embrace the truth as it was for others; and,

(d)it was as easy to embrace the truth as to embrace error.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Though the way of error is a hurtful way, many are always ready to walk therein. Let us take care we give no occasion to the enemy to blaspheme the holy name whereby we are called, or to speak evil of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These seducers used feigned words, they deceived the hearts of their followers. Such are condemned already, and the wrath of God abides upon them. God's usual method of proceeding is shown by examples. Angels were cast down from all their glory and dignity, for their disobedience. If creatures sin, even in heaven, they must suffer in hell. Sin is the work of darkness, and darkness is the wages of sin. See how God dealt with the old world. The number of offenders no more procures favour, than their quality. If the sin be universal, the punishment shall likewise extend to all. If in a fruitful soil the people abound in sin, God can at once turn a fruitful land into barrenness, and a well-watered country into ashes. No plans or politics can keep off judgments from a sinful people. He who keeps fire and water from hurting his people, Isa 43:2, can make either destroy his enemies; they are never safe. When God sends destruction on the ungodly, he commands deliverance for the righteous. In bad company we cannot but get either guilt or grief. Let the sins of others be troubles to us. Yet it is possible for the children of the Lord, living among the most profane, to retain their integrity; there being more power in the grace of Christ, and his dwelling in them, than in the temptations of Satan, or the example of the wicked, with all their terrors or allurements. In our intentions and inclinations to commit sin, we meet with strange hinderances, if we mark them When we intend mischief, God sends many stops to hinder us, as if to say, Take heed what you do. His wisdom and power will surely effect the purposes of his love, and the engagements of his truth; while wicked men often escape suffering here, because they are kept to the day of judgment, to be punished with the devil and his angels.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But there were false prophets - There were not only holy men of God among the Jews, who prophesied by Divine inspiration, but there were also false prophets, whose prophecies were from their own imagination, and perverted many.

As there shall be false teachers among you - At a very early period of the Christian Church many heresies sprung up; but the chief were those of the Ebionites, Cerinthians, Nicolaitans, Menandrians, and Gnostics, of whom many strange things have been spoken by the primitive fathers, and of whose opinions it is difficult to form any satisfactory view. They were, no doubt, bad enough, and their opponents in general have doubtless made them worse. By what name those were called of whom the apostle here speaks, we cannot tell. They were probably some sort of apostate Jews, or those called the Nicolaitans. See the preface.

Damnable heresies - Αἱρεσεις απωλειας· Heresies of destruction; such as, if followed, would lead a man to perdition. And these παρεισαξουσιν, they will bring in privately - cunningly, without making much noise, and as covertly as possible. It would be better to translate destructive heresies than damnable.

Denying the Lord that bought them - It is not certain whether God the Father be intended here, or our Lord Jesus Christ; for God is said to have purchased the Israelites, Exodus 15:16, and to be the Father that had bought them, Deuteronomy 32:6, and the words may refer to these or such like passages; or they may point out Jesus Christ, who had bought them with his blood; and the heresies, or dangerous opinions, may mean such as opposed the Divinity of our Lord, or his meritorious and sacrificial death, or such opinions as bring upon those who hold them swift destruction. It seems, however, more natural to understand the Lord that bought them as applying to Christ, than otherwise; and if so, this is another proof, among many,

  1. That none can be saved but by Jesus Christ.

2. That through their own wickedness some may perish for whom Christ died.

Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 485

Men who bring in these damnable heresies will dare those who teach the word of God to enter into controversy with them, and some who teach the truth have not had the courage to withstand a challenge from this class, who are marked characters in the word of God. Some of our ministers have not had the moral courage to say to these men: God has warned us in His word in regard to you. He has given us a faithful description of your character and of the heresies which you hold. Some of our ministers, rather than give this class any occasion to triumph or to charge them with cowardice, have met them in open discussion. But in discussing with spiritualists they do not meet man merely, but Satan and his angels. They place themselves in communication with the powers of darkness and encourage evil angels about them. 3T 485.1

Spiritualists desire to give publicity to their heresies; and ministers who advocate Bible truth help them to do this when they consent to engage in discussion with them. They improve their opportunities to get their heresies before the people, and in every discussion with them some will be deceived. The very best course for us to pursue is to avoid them. 3T 485.2

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Ellen G. White
The Sanctified Life, 62

Multitudes of all classes come out to listen to the preaching of the apostles, and are healed of their diseases through the name of Jesus, that name so hated among the Jews. The priests and rulers are frantic in their opposition as they see that the sick are healed and Jesus is exalted as the Prince of life. They fear that soon the whole world will believe on Him, and then accuse them of murdering the Mighty Healer. But the greater their efforts to stop this excitement, the more believe on Him and turn from the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. They are filled with indignation, and laying hands on Peter and John, thrust them into the common prison. But the angel of the Lord, by night, opens the prison doors, brings them forth, and says, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). SL 62.1

With fidelity and earnestness John bore testimony for his Lord upon every suitable occasion. He saw that the times were full of peril for the church. Satanic delusions were existing everywhere. The minds of the people were wandering through the mazes of skepticism and deceptive doctrines. Some who pretended to be true to the cause of God were deceivers. They denied Christ and His gospel and were bringing in damnable heresies and living in transgression of the divine law. SL 62.2

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 101

I saw that we are no more secure from false teachers now than they were in the apostles’ days; and, if we do no more, we should take as special measures as they did to secure the peace, harmony, and union of the flock. We have their example, and should follow it. Brethren of experience and of sound minds should assemble, and following the Word of God and the sanction of the Holy Spirit, should, with fervent prayer, lay hands upon those who have given full proof that they have received their commission of God, and set them apart to devote themselves entirely to His work. This act would show the sanction of the church to their going forth as messengers to carry the most solemn message ever given to men. EW 101.1

God will not entrust the care of His precious flock to men whose mind and judgment have been weakened by former errors that they have cherished, such as so-called perfectionism [see Appendix.] and Spiritualism, and who, by their course while in these errors, have disgraced themselves and brought reproach upon the cause of truth. Although they may now feel free from error and competent to go forth and to teach this last message, God will not accept them. He will not entrust precious souls to their care; for their judgment was perverted while in error, and is now weakened. The great and holy One is a jealous God, and He will have holy men to carry His truth. The holy law spoken by God from Sinai is a part of Himself, and holy men who are its strict observers will alone honor Him by teaching it to others. EW 101.2

The servants of God who teach the truth should be men of judgment. They should be men who can bear opposition and not get excited; for those who oppose the truth will pick at those who teach it, and every objection that can be produced, will be brought in its worst form to bear against the truth. The servants of God who bear the message must be prepared to remove these objections, with calmness and meekness, by the light of truth. Frequently opposers talk to ministers of God in a provoking manner, to call out something from them of the same nature, that they can make as much of it as possible and declare to others that the teachers of the commandments have a bitter spirit and are harsh, as has been reported. I saw that we must be prepared for objections, and with patience, judgment, and meekness, let them have the weight they deserve, not throw them away or dispose of them by positive assertions, and then bear down upon the objector, and manifest a hard spirit toward him; but give the objections their weight, then bring forth the light and the power of the truth, and let it outweigh and remove the errors. Thus a good impression will be made, and honest opposers will acknowledge that they have been deceived and that the commandment keepers are not what they have been represented to be. EW 102.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 535

While exalting the “sure word of prophecy” as a safe guide in times of peril, the apostle solemnly warned the church against the torch of false prophecy, which would be uplifted by “false teachers,” who would privily bring in “damnable heresies, even denying the Lord.” These false teachers, arising in the church and accounted true by many of their brethren in the faith, the apostle compared to “wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.” “The latter end is worse with them,” he declared, “than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” AA 535.1

Looking down through the ages to the close of time, Peter was inspired to outline conditions that would exist in the world just prior to the second coming of Christ. “There shall come in the last days scoffers,” he wrote, “walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Not all, however, would be ensnared by the enemy's devices. As the end of all things earthly should approach, there would be faithful ones able to discern the signs of the times. While a large number of professing believers would deny their faith by their works, there would be a remnant who would endure to the end. AA 535.2

Peter kept alive in his heart the hope of Christ's return, and he assured the church of the certain fulfillment of the Saviour's promise, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” John 14:3. To the tried and faithful ones the coming might seem long delayed, but the apostle assured them: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. AA 536.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 587

Early in the history of the church the mystery of iniquity foretold by the apostle Paul began its baleful work; and as the false teachers concerning whom Peter had warned the believers, urged their heresies, many were ensnared by false doctrines. Some faltered under trial and were tempted to give up the faith. At the time when John was given this revelation, many had lost their first love of gospel truth. But in His mercy God did not leave the church to continue in a backslidden state. In a message of infinite tenderness He revealed His love for them and His desire that they should make sure work for eternity. “Remember,” He pleaded, “from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” Verse 5. AA 587.1

The church was defective and in need of stern reproof and chastisement, and John was inspired to record messages of warning and reproof and entreaty to those who, losing sight of the fundamental principles of the gospel, should imperil their hope of salvation. But always the words of rebuke that God finds it necessary to send are spoken in tender love and with the promise of peace to every penitent believer. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock,” the Lord declares; “if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20. AA 587.2

And for those who in the midst of conflict should maintain their faith in God, the prophet was given the words of commendation and promise: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name.” “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” The believers were admonished: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Verses 8, 10, 2, 11. AA 587.3

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there were
even
privily
damnable
denying
bought
and bring