2 Peter 2:10-12
(10) But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
(11) Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
(12) But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
I like garden-grown vegetables. Nothing beats a freshly picked tomato still warm from the sun. I hate pulling weeds. I love a nice-looking lawn. The smell and appearance of a newly cut lawn is a thing of beauty. I hate mowing and I don’t like it when the yellowjackets find me before I find them. But the truth is, in order to have the blessings in life, you must deal with some of the less pleasant tasks that get you those blessings.
In our passage today, Peter is still dealing with false teachers. It is an unpleasant task, but to protect his readers, it is one he had to deal with. More importantly, it was something his readers had to learn to deal with because they would not always have Peter to protect them. As he continues his teaching on false teachers, he calls them out for three things. One of them was their reviling.
The picture Peter paints here is of people who build themselves up by tearing others down. They have no respect for authority and have no shame when it comes to defaming people in authority. They are like this because they “walk after the flesh,” meaning their natural sin nature. Our sin nature by definition resists authority and fights against God’s truth. (See Romans 7.) The doctrine of false teachers appeals to this nature and couches its lies in catchphrases that sound biblical: “God wants you to be happy!” Of course God wants us to be happy, but happiness is a byproduct of obedience, not a goal in and of itself. Besides, God wants us to have something better than happiness. He wants us to know joy. That again can only come by submitting to His truth. False teachers appeal to man’s pride: “Me first! I’m just looking out for number one!” This is the opposite of Jesus Who emptied Himself and became a servant (Philippians 2:3-8). Peter describes these false teachers as “self-willed.” They appealed to pride because they lived in pride and that pride led them to open defiance of all authority including God’s.
To show us the seriousness of their transgressions, Peter notes that not even angels who have direct access to God brought accusations against the false teachers (v. 11). Would they be justified in doing so? Of course, but the angels know that judgment of such magnitude is not theirs to mete out. Judgment belongs to God. The last angel who thought to take on the role of God was cast out from His presence. (See Isaiah 14.) If angels fear such displeasure from God, how much more should man?
What should our stance toward authority look like? What if we do not like the person in power? What if the person in power oversteps his/her bounds? The basic principle is this: Respect the office whether or not you respect the person because “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Even the bad powers? Yes, because God very often gives people the government they deserve. That does not mean He condones the evil they do. He will hold them to account. (See God’s words for the Assyrians in Isaiah 10.) But that judgment belongs to God, not to us (Romans 12:19). What if a person in authority is clearly wrong? Consider the prophets who had to rebuke wicked kings. Micaiah in 1 Kings 22 is a good example. King Ahab did not like him because as he said: “he would prophesy no good concerning me” (1 Kings 22:18). When Micaiah spoke the truth to the king, he did not slander or revile him. He only told the truth even when it meant jail time. He gave the king unpleasant messages, but he did not do so in a disrespectful manner. In the church, Paul tells us: “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1a). Paul was not saying elders are infallible. He was saying the office of elder needs to be respected even if the occupant is imperfect and when he is wrong, he is still to be treated respectfully. This is all the opposite of false teachers who would have us “speak the truth to power” in a way that appeals to our flesh. Our example is the Son of God, Who even when He was slapped across the face by those who had Him on trial, refused to respond in kind. He submitted to authority that He Himself had ordained – authority that was clearly abusing its power. Still, He did what He expects us to do: Submit, honor the Father and let God be the judge.
[Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash]
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